I am falling in love with an Italian canine. She is a little dog so don’t tell my cats back home. She stands about two feet tall. She never barks (or even yips). Her name is Miya. She is the cutest Russell terrier in the world (in my opinion). I meet her on the village square in Bomerano where our group is examining the map for the Circuito Tre Calli in Amalfi, Italy. This hike is estimated to take 140 minutes to walk (at a brisk pace). It is New Year’s Day.
Our guide Severio is describing our route—which will involve walking 6.5 miles to the top of Monte Catello—when this little brown and white pup joins us. At first, I think that she belongs to one of the town’s shop owners. But when we begin walking down the alley to reach the sign that will announce our entry onto the Circuit, our exuberant Russell terrier (which is a shorter-legged, stockier variety of the Jack Russell terrier) immediately joins my side.
Even with her short little legs, she manages to part run/part jump up the steep rock staircase that we must mount. Initially, I think that this dog with soulful brown eyes and exuberant personality will only walk to the outskirts of the town where she supposedly lives at a hotel. But when we pass a house with two black dogs sleeping in the driveway, they run out to get petted. Now we have three dogs who are following us.
Heading up the steep concrete road toward the mountain, we turn a corner to see four large white dogs—which are the Maremma Sheepdog indigenous to central Italy—leading a herd of Italian goats. The herd is varied in color: black, grey and speckled. January 1 might be a holiday in Italy but it is still a workday for these goats. Severio yells ahead that we must get out of way of their way. The three dogs following us know to avoid the sheepdogs and hide near us. It takes several minutes for the goats to meander down the road.
We resume our ascent. Within a couple of minutes, I notice that the black dogs are no longer following us. But Miya is happily running between different members of our hiking group. Severio encourages the dog to return home but she stays near us. The next several hours pass quickly as we follow the path. We stop often to look over the stone guard rail to survey the sweeping views of the sea and forest below us. Miya moves back and forth, herding her hikers. I wish we could reward her with dog biscuits or some treat. This is hard work for humans and canines.
We stop at a forest clearing where there are large boulders. The rocks become seats for our al fresco lunch. It is simple fare—panini sandwiches consisting of prosciutto, soft or hard cheese, and fresh tomatoes. Miya walks to each of us to see if she can have a snack. We offer bits of food. After a short break, we begin the final ascent. I cannot adequately explain the tranquility of our surroundings. It feels like we are climbing into the heavens. Monte Catello offers us 360-degree panoramas of the Amalfi Coast and Capri when we reach the summit.
We quickly take a few photos then prepare to descend. The wind is blowing so hard at the top of the mountain. It feels like it could topple us. But our faithful Russell terrier never leaves us. I think she has walked 30,000 steps compared to our 15,000 human steps. Good dog. Tired terrier.
Postscript: Three years later, I have adopted a Golden Retriever puppy. His name is Parker. Although I won’t be able to take him on long hikes in Italy, I hope he will be as adventurous as Miya hiking Great Falls National Park or Acadia National Park. WOOF!
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