In this world, there are two kinds of people: the cat person and the dog person. It’s interesting to me how this simple preference tells you so much about a person. Like a secret code that’s been engraved into our psyche, this subconscious siding isn’t about disliking one animal and therefore liking the other. It’s about an undefinable, vague feeling of companionship — a sort of mirror of our own spirit. I belong to “Team Dog.” You see? You already know a lot about me, don’t you?
In Italy, I met a young men who talked to me about love. I was lying in my hammock, smoothly swinging back and forth, and writing. Hasan told me that he liked different things and that he was passionate about maybe five of them. But love, he said, love was bigger than all the rest. When he speaks about love — loving someone or something, which he’s never done before — he will have to choose wisely.
I told him that I love many things. People, places, animals, nature… I guess this is a romantic notion even though the love I described doesn’t necessarily have to be of a romantic nature. It’s the underlying feeling of sonder, of empathy, of unity and being one. It’s the belief in kindred spirits; my heart that beats for all these things. Sometimes I feel like it’s all too much; that I can’t possibly take it; that it consumes me. But it also lifts me. In a weird and unfathomable way, it keeps me connected to myself and the world around me. I choose to call this feeling Love.
Hasan shook his head and called me crazy. To be more careful with my words and to only ever love myself — for that kind of love could never be broken.
I told him that I stand by my beliefs that are feelings rather, an urge I cannot shake.
He looked at me as if my soul had already been lost. “You will destroy yourself, you know?”
I gazed at the branches above my head before I answered. If I squinted my eyes the colours would blur. The brown bark, the green leaves, the blue sky, the sun, the clouds, the birds, the world. I turned back to him. “Maybe. Maybe I will.”
On October 8, I met Simba. I had been looking for a dog for a while. I didn’t know much except that I wanted a girl — my fate was sealed already, I was convinced, the rest would sort itself out in time. I spread the news among friends and even visited a shelter. My efforts remained unsuccessful: Since I’m neither Italian nor a resident with a permanent address in the country (living in vans doesn’t count, go figure), adopting a dog in Italy became a much bigger mission than I had anticipated. As the weeks went by, I began to think that it wasn’t meant to be.
One night as I was walking back to Eddie, leaving the ruins of Bussana Vecchia behind me once again, I got a message from a friend: “I found a dog for you.”
I tried to call but the signal was bad, and I went to sleep feeling reminded of my six-year-old self on the night before Christmas.
“What do you mean, you found me a dog?” I asked the next morning, anxious for information. But Davide was on his way down the hill already, helping a friend to bring up new building materials with the orange Ape.
“Don’t worry,” he smiled as he leaned out of the window. “You’ll meet him on Sunday.”
“Yes, he’s coming on Sunday.”
I wasn’t sure when things — both recent events and the three-wheeled car in front of me — had picked up speed like they did, but despite the many questions my mind came up with in high-pitched voices, Davide and Torre had already disappeared from my sight.
I had my doubts about adopting a dog I had never seen before. “You have to cancel all plans for Sunday,” I spluttered at night, curious at heart but suddenly haunted by the idea that whatever mystery was about to reveal itself at the end of the week was about to grow into a huge disaster. Ironically, all protest was in vain as Davide insisted the meeting was set. “You wanted a dog, now we give you one,” he told me. But, as questions of uncertainty kept purring out of me, he also offered: “Don’t worry, if you really don’t want him, we’ll keep him. But we got him for you.”
Here’s the thing about love: there comes a time when you feel without thinking. The doubts certainly didn’t disappear. Not even when I saw him, this little creature who shuffled about the place, already curious to explore. But when he was put into my arms — this bundle of black and white fur with giant feet and a sprinkled nose — I didn’t think about the size he’d grow into or the fact that he was a boy or the circumstances of how we were coming together. For a split second, before the thoughts returned, I felt we’d grow inseparable.
When his name comes up, people tend to ask me one of two questions. Some want to know if it’s a boy or a girl, and I wonder if it’s possible they’ve never heard of the Lion King. Others wonder if he shouldn’t be brown. I named him Simba on the spur of the moment. While the boys started to tease me by calling him names that seemed unacceptable for a dog or any living creature for that matter, I found myself gazing at the size of his paws. Simba felt right.
That night, I picked him up, held him close and brought him home so he could meet Eddie. The rest is history.