Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Compassion for Pompeiian Dogs Sparks New Project

Although mosaics of ancient Pompeii proclaim the Roman equivalent of "Beware of Dog", I found the current canine residents of the remains of Pompeii to be rather docile creatures who prefer to snooze on the warm ancient paving stones of the archaeological site rather than chase away tourists. So, I was glad to read that the superintendent of the Pompeii has launched an effort to not only care for the dogs, but actively seek "forever" homes for them.

"They sleep under ancient Roman frescoes and walk on priceless mosaic floors, but they are far from living a privileged life. They are the dogs of Pompeii -- sick, starving, dirty and scruffy stray dogs who wander through the ruins of the volcano stricken Roman town.

[Image: A canine resident of Pompeii still waits patiently for someone to take them home. Photo by Mary Harrsch.]

The poor animals have been living in the ancient Roman town for decades, marking the territory by urinating on the ancient walls, and relying on compassionate tourists for food and water.

"Stray dogs have given Pompeii a bad image, but things are going to change. From now on, dogs will have their own identity and dignity and will be taken care of," Pompeii's emergency commissioner Marcello Fiori said at a press conference on Monday. - More: Discovery News

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ciceronianus said...

What of the cats?

Mary Harrsch said...

Surprisingly, although I have seen many stray cats in Rome particularly in the Largo Argentina, I don't remember seeing any cats in Pompeii on either of my two visits.

I was surprised that the article mentioned over 50 stray dogs in Pompeii as I only recall seeing two or three throughout an entire day of roaming around the ruins.

Unknown said...

Are these perhaps descendants of those dogs that were caught in the lava flows, and preserved forever in their death throes?

Mary Harrsch said...

Perhaps descendants of dogs from the neighboring countryside. The black-and-white somewhat long-haired dog depicted in the Cave Canem mosaic does have a collie type appearance much like the mixed breed in my picture but with a more square jaw. Perhaps the ancient breed was mixed with the fierce (and now extinct) Molossian hound that was used in battle.

Of course some Roman ladies kept little lap dogs too. In Propertius’ Elegies, a lonely Roman lady pining for her absent husband writes "Even the fretful whimper of my puppy Craugis is pleasant to my ears; she claims for herself your side in our bed." The name she has bestowed on her little pet means "yapper". Hmmm..I have a couple of miniature doxies in my house that would qualify for that appellation!