This go-round I’ve been living in Italy for over 15 years. My love affair with this beautiful, yet maddening, country started when I spent an academic year in Perugia a few decades ago. A lot has changed since then but I still find ample reminders of the kindness and humane spirit that seduced me in the first place.

Recently my husband, Gaetano, and I went to the pet store to get a new scratch pad for our cat, Pallina. We needed to quickly replace the one she’d destroyed before she started looking elsewhere to get her nails done, if you know what I mean.

The owner of the store, a woman with whom I had shared many a cat anecdote (and a ‘cat’ lady herself) was not there. Her friend was pinch-hitting and unfamiliar with the inventory. We couldn’t find a replica of the pad we were about to toss, so bought a different one, all three of us concerned that Pallina might not ‘like’ it.

In any event, I noticed that the store now carried an all-over, spray solution against fleas. I apply a tiny vial full of this stuff once a month to the only part of her that she can’t lick, i.e. the back of her neck. (Bear with me, here, all this detail is essential to the story, I promise.) But the cheaper spray was lick-proof.

Ok. The vials are expensive and the spray was not. End of story. Well, not really, but the end of the vials and the beginning of the spray.

That evening as Gaetano and I left our apartment building for a dinner with friends, we saw a familiar-looking woman, standing next to a parked car with a large dog jumping around inside like a puppy. She was the ‘cat lady,’ I mean, the pet store proprietor; she sprang toward us and said:

“My husband and I weren’t sure exactly where you lived but we knew it was somewhere on Via Margutta. I think my friend sold you a spray that only works on dogs. If your cat licks herself, she could get sick.”

Well, Gaetano and I were both speechless. This was especially unusual for him (and OK, for me, too) because he is Italian and . . . . talks a lot! Before we could respond, she continued, smiling.

“While we were waiting here, our dog locked the car doors, so my husband took a cab home to get the other keys.”

We laughed along with her, thinking about what havoc claws can wreak. Cats, falcons, DOGS!!!

“I’m so worried that he may get dehydrated because the windows are up,” she said as her pet bounced off the walls, I mean, off the windows, doors, seats, and yes, the locks.

I assured her that I had examined the product and it was for cats. Our friends were waiting in their car a block away (and thankfully, outside of it with the windows down and no dog inside), so we couldn’t wait until her husband arrived to thank him as well.

So, please try not to focus too much on how Berlusconi made a laughingstock out of Italy (bunga, bunga) or the fact that the economy is in a tailspin and unemployment is their modern-day plague, or that there is a LOT of corruption here.


This was the type of ‘act’ that happened regularly when I was a student and which, I’m convinced, still takes place regularly all over the country.

Viva l’Italia!

*** For further information on the painting (and others), please contact me at Grazie!

N.B. Unfortunately, the store owner of Cani, Gatti e Passerotti, Via dell’Arancio, 48 has retired and the store now closed. However, they now focus on keeping their dog safe in an unlocked car!