Anyone who knows me has witnessed at one time or another my inappropriate obsession with all things dog-related. So it was only a matter of time before I decided that I was ready to start looking at dogs to adopt. Now, back in America, all you’d need to do if you wanted to adopt a dog is head to your local animal rescue shelter and start browsing the pups. However, since we are talking about Italy, of course it’s about as simple as juggling pies on top of a spinning bouncy ball…aka not easy.
Here’s what I did when adopting a dog in Italy.
Step 1: Finding a Dog
I decided to start my search for a dog by using (what else?) the Internets. In the hunt for the perfect 4 legged companion, the Internet is an invaluable resource for looking through photos of dogs, and finding out a little about their background before you bring one home.
If you type in “addozione cani” into any search engine, you’re bound to find something. I ended up finding Zola as an announcement on a website called Firenze Vivastreet, which is basically just an online Yellow Pages, and through the woman I adopted Zola from, I became friends with a load of animal-friendly people on Facebook, where there are always local adoption notices (try looking up your nearest veterinarian on Facebook–most times they post photos of pets looking for new homes, or just befriend mine! Ambulatorio Petrarca is awesome).
Some other dog adoption resources to consider:
Find your local canile (dog kennel) website–click here for the one in Florence
ENPA-Italy’s National Pet Association (check out your local city’s Facebook page)
OIPA-Italian National Animal Protection Agency
Step 2: Contacting dog rescue people. And if you’re like me, don’t tell your boyfriend about it until it’s too late for him to say no to you.
Once I found the ad with Zola’s picture, I was instantly in love. I mean, have you seen a picture of her before? She’s pretty damn cute. So of course, I decided to immediately contact the email address listed on the announcement, and was promptly forwarded a “modulo” of 4 form pages of questions to fill out and send back. I’ll have to admit, it was pretty daunting having all of my life choices questioned by total strangers (Do I have a garden? No. Should I have one, or will it make me look like a cruel and heartless person who intends on getting a dog and banishing it outdoors for the rest of its life? I don’t know. Do I know that not spaying or neutering my dog will mean it’s bound to get genital cancer and die a horrible death? No, I did not know that. Move on to next questions and mentally kick self for not being more prepared.)
In all seriousness, these questionnaires are incredibly helpful in matching the right people with the right dogs. The last thing you want is to rescue a dog only to find that the lifestyle and energy level you have does not match your new furry friend’s, and you have to take them back. So be honest-these people know what they’re doing when they rehome a dog with you.
Step 3: Fill out form & wait for response.
Step 4: Receive response phone call. Pee pants with nervousness & excitement. Also, don’t tell boyfriend yet.
Now, don’t get me wrong–Francesco loves Zola to death (they’re currently cuddling on the couch as I write this)–but my boyfriend was adamant that he did not want a dog, nor did he think that I could afford one. In the nicest possible way, of course, but he was 100% against me getting a dog.
Step 5: Set up appointment for dog people to come visit my apartment. Spend all day cleaning like a madwoman. Don’t tell boyfriend.
Step 6: Conduct interview for dog in my spotless apartment. Show off to dog rescue interviewer so she can see how much I should have this new dog.
Step 7: Dog Lady asks to set up meeting with immediate family or other members of household. Debate on mentioning boyfriend.
Step 8: Cry to boyfriend and guilt him into accepting dog interview meeting.
Now I’m not proud of this, but I admit it–I wholeheartedly guilted Francesco into letting me have a dog. When the adoption lady asked me if she could interview Francesco since he’d be the one spending the most time (other than me) with a new dog, I knew I’d have to bite the bullet and tell him what I’d done. His reaction was pretty much classic Italian–complete with sighing and eye rolling over my impulsive behavior–but he agreed to not be an asshole and talk to this lady.
Step 9: Interview with boyfriend and Dog-Lady.
Step 10: Anxiously await follow-up phone call from Adoption Lady.
When I received a call from Serena, the woman that I adopted Zola from, to let me know that she had spoken to the volunteer who had interviewed me and that she had approved me to adopt a dog, it finally sank in that I was actually doing this. I was going to have a little furry companion dependent solely on me. I actually freaked out for a few days and reconsidered the whole thing. But as soon as I looked at that picture of little Z, all my doubts and worries went away. I knew that I could give this puppy the life she deserved, and all the love and affection she could desire.
Step 11: Get ready for new puppy’s arrival
Francesco and I arranged to pick up Zola that Saturday morning, at a rest stop just off the Fi-Pi-Li. It was a weird handoff that involved half a dozen dogs crammed together in kennels in the back of some stranger’s van, but we waited alongside the other families who were picking up dogs. Zola was the last one to come out, hiding in the corner of the kennel behind another dog, and when the lady placed her in my arms, I thought I would die of delight. She was so warm and fluffy and smelled like puppy and sunshine. I was in love!
Step 12: Get Zola inside my apartment. Immediately regret decision.
Step 13: Spend next 15 minutes cleaning up Zola’s huge piles of shit everywhere.
Zola was a very sick little puppy the first day that I had her. She had uncontrollable diarrhea throughout the day, and ate and drank very little. Still, she was curious, wagging her tail as she watched me move around the room. We pretty much just hung out all day until she was feeling better, and then we went out to get acquainted with Florence and meet all of my amici for the first time.
Step 14: Learn how to adjust to the new schedule.
When you adopt a dog, you are signing up for a lifetime of new priorities. Gone were the lazy 10 am wake-ups and never leaving the house on a Sunday. A dog has its own schedule to keep, from waking up early and needing to eat, being taken out on pee walks, played with & vaccinated and spoiled, I became a much more responsible-type adult. As a pet owner, I know now that my wants and needs don’t always necessarily come first anymore.
Step 15: Enjoy your new life together with your adopted Italian dog.
I love getting to learn new things about Italian dogs, especially things that as an American, I don’t always know. For example, did you know that Italians pretty much let their dogs go anywhere? Seriously–you can take a dog into a restaurant here, on the bus, on a train, into a clothing shop, wherever you want (except hospitals, pharmacies and grocery stores, although people often break these rules) because dogs are protected by laws here. I had to register Zola with the Italian authorities, and she was microchipped and given a libretto sanitario, which basically lists all her vaccines and surgeries. Florence is a very dog-friendly city, and I love getting to explore the city with Zola by my side.