During the summer, I often take a walk behind my house up into the hills after dinner. The weather is pleasant and cool at that time, and it offers the best view of the mountains during sunset. Sometimes I go alone, but other times I go with my partner, M. We ride the scooter up to a panoramic spot to start our hike and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Gran Sasso and Monte Gemelli mountains. At times, a shepherd dog from Abruzzo, known as the Pastore Abruzzese, accompanies us on these walks.
Since ancient times, the Abruzzese shepherd dog has been tasked with protecting flocks, barking at threats, and defending livestock from attacks by bears, wolves, and other wild animals, especially in the central regions of Italy. In the mountains and hills, they were the loyal companions of shepherds during the transhumance, and became indispensable to them.
"If you know anyone who wants a doggie"
The rural setting, where shepherds roam with their flocks amidst cornfields and grazing cows, creates a wonderful environment for walking. As dusk approaches and the time for wild boars and wolves to venture out draws near, we descend back home.
During these walks, I sometimes bring snacks and a bottle of cold wine to enjoy the serene moment when the sun sets behind the mountains. One memorable picnic outing, we were unexpectedly visited by four white Abruzzese shepherd dog puppies along with their black companion. We quickly finished our food, and then we played with the lively little dogs who seemed to have boundless energy. As it started getting dark, we walked with the puppies following us, trying to find their way home and their owner. Eventually, we ended up in a yard near an deserted house, a place the little dogs appeared to be familiar with. After shouting "c'è qualcuno" a few times, a signora came out and called the puppies to order. "Do you want one?" she calls out to us.
An Abruzzese shepherd dog for their new home
The next morning, we discussed the delightful encounter with the puppies during breakfast. I suggested posting a message on Facebook about the puppies to see if anyone was interested in adopting one from the Abruzzese shepherd dog breed. Soon enough, I received a message from a Dutch couple living nearby who wanted to adopt a puppy. We arranged to meet at our office to go see the dogs together.
Interestingly, it turned out that I had already met the Dutch guys previously when they sought advice about buying a house in Abruzzo. They shared how happy they were with their new rural life, having chickens and how an Abruzzese sheepdog would fit in perfectly with their five-acre land.
As we arrived at the farmyard, we were greeted by three puppies and their black companion. The boys were excitedly playing with the little dogs, which were covered in dust and straw. In the distance, we saw some people standing by the house, so I called out "permesso" to ensure there were no aggressive dogs around.
The friendly shepherd with blue eyes
To my surprise, G., a friendly shepherd with blue eyes whom I had photographed numerous times during our walks, approached us. I told him about the lady looking for a home for the little puppies. "That's right, that's my wife," he says, "we already have so many dogs, 1 puppy I want to keep myself and for the rest we are looking for a new home." I introduced the boys to G. and shared their desire to have a Pastore Abruzzese to watch over their chickens. After some time of playing and bonding with the puppies, the boys decided to adopt two little dogs, so they could play together.
An Abruzzese shepherd dog for 'Buono auspicio'
When I asked G. about the compensation for the two puppies, he thought for a moment and said "just give me 100 euros for the 2 brothers, that seems a nice symbolic amount, hopefully it is also "di buono auspicio" (bring them luck)."
The money would go towards buying dog food for the other dogs. He also advised the boys to take the puppies to the vet for a checkup and vaccinations against infectious diseases. He stressed the importance of protecting the dogs, from April to October, the dogs in this area need to be protected against external parasites, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, etc. Internal parasites, worms and bacteria must also be controlled, especially during the puppies' growing phase.
Potato starch for a beautiful white coat
One of the boys asked if they could wash the little dogs since they were very dusty and dirty. G. laughed and said they could use a little dog shampoo if necessary. The coat of the Abruzzo sheepdog must be white without spots. In winter the coat is thicker and has a rich undercoat to protect the dog from winter temperatures, while in summer it loses its undercoat. In summer, the coat should never be clipped; the summer coat's function is to provide protection from the heat. The coat should be brushed regularly, especially during the shedding period (twice a year) when he loses his woolly undercoat
"To clean the dog's white coat perfectly, you should use "Fecola di patate" potato starch, you can get it in the supermarket, if the dog is dirty, brush it thoroughly and then rub it with the white powder. Treat the entire coat of the animal with this potato starch, it is a completely natural product, in addition, it does not give off any odors and is completely absorbed after a few minutes. You will immediately notice that the dog has a beautiful, shiny and soft coat again."
Dog vomit in the back seat, small price to pay
On the way back in the car, the puppies got quite excited and ended up vomiting, so we had to stop and clean up. Nevertheless, the boys were thrilled with their two Abruzzese shepherd. When I call the next day to ask how things were going, they told me that the puppies just made one of their chickens 'a head shorter' (as the Dutch saying goes). But that shouldn't spoil the fun, the new "dog fathers" were already totally in love with their two Abruzzese shepherd.
Pastore Abruzzese, the Abruzzese shepherd dog
The Abruzzese Shepherd is known for its alert, friendly, loyal, and decisive character. While it possesses a strong instinct and independent temperament, it is also a loving and playful family dog. However, it may be reserved and wary around strangers, showing shyness. The dog takes its responsibility for protecting its family seriously.
Despite its size, the white shepherd dog from Abruzzo has a long lifespan and high natural resistance to diseases and harsh weather conditions. It thrives living outdoors and is not afraid of snow and rain. In the summer, providing a shady spot is essential, and during the coldest days in winter, a spacious doghouse is vital. Daily exercise and walks on a leash or in the wild are essential for the puppy's development and well-being.
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Who is the author?
Bibi grew up in Holland and writes for the Dolcevia website about Abruzzo, Marche and Puglia, she lives in Teramo in Abruzzo where she runs an Archtectural Studio together with her Italian husband Maurizio, a prizewinning architect specializing in the restauration of old farmhouses and historical buildings.