New Beginnings….Three weeks in Tordenaso
So here we all are in Italy. A number of months of thinking about it from when the idea came to mind, planning, still trying to fight the inevitable in the courts, and finally, the day for the flight was here. November 2, 2016.
The day before, the shipping company came to pack up the things I was taking with me. I had spent a few very difficult months sorting and screening everything in the house. 47 years, raising a family, generations of dogs and the hundreds of trophies they won over the years, various jobs, a huge amount of books (how painful it was to give away most of the books, books for me are very personal things), papers, writing, photos – in the end, 47 years of my life has been reduced to 65 cartons to be shipped to Italy.
Flying with twelve dogs is no joke. I was quite stressed about the trip, not about how the dogs would take it – I have flown with many dogs to many places, and they get through the trip fine. I was worried about the inevitable bureaucracy on both ends. On the side of Israel, it was all taken care of, I hoped. I had all the necessary documents. The problem here was logistics.
My friend Dana, who has been the one helping me with the dogs when I travelled over the last year, and her husband, were flying with me to help with the dogs. However, getting to the airport with all dogs, crates, and suitcases, involved a lot of planning, a number of friends with their various vehicles, and precise calculations of who was travelling with whom. Once we arrived at the airport, unloading and finding a way to get to check-in with the dogs, etc., was also a big challenge, but we managed to find an airport porter with two big trolleys who found the whole situation very amusing.
Without the help of my friends, I don’t know how I would have managed! I am so grateful to them!
We did attract a good deal of attention at the airport... The dogs were very calm and well behaved, I was so pleased with them.
The dogs were loaded, and so were we, and the flight to Milan passed in a daze of exhaustion. I do not enjoy flying, but I was too tired to think about how uncomfortable it was. Even Emma and Annabella, the two podengos that were privileged to fly in the cabin with us, slept quietly in their carryons for the whole flight. And I was focused on what we would have to go through to enter Italy with all the dogs.
The flight arrived at 21:30, and was the only flight at that time. (Flights from Israel always tend to be pushed to the times when there are no other flights or to the extreme ends of the terminals – in some cities, it can be quite a hike to get to and from the flight). Unloading was very efficient, and the dogs were quickly all there. We found a few long trolleys – how lucky! – loaded the dog crates, and headed for customs.
I had no idea how the Italian customs would react to us coming in with twelve dogs. Indeed, they were quite shocked. It took some time to convince them that yes, these were all my own personal dogs, and no, they were not for sale. Then all the documents had to be inspected – 8 pages of paperwork for each dog! – and the microchips checked, so each dog in turn was taken out and scanned. They behaved so well, very calm, not worried about the terminal, and not about going back in the crates.
And finally we were ready to exit the airport! We had gotten through the whole bureaucratic morass that had been giving me nightmares for weeks! We were all in Italy!
We were met by a Facebook friend (yes, really!!!!). This is a collie breeder from Milano, who saw that I was coming, and kindly offered to help. We had never met in person, but only corresponded, yet here she was, with her husband, with a van they had rented for us. The van was just big enough for all the dogs and luggage, and her husband was our chauffeur.
I still find it hard to believe the kindness of these total strangers, who came to help, drove us over two hours to our new home, in the middle of the night, and then drove back to Milano. There couldn't have been a more heartwarming welcome to our new country than the one we received from these lovely people.
We arrived at the house in Tordenaso about one in the morning. Of course, as with all the best laid plans of mice and men, the kennel was not yet ready, and the gates for the yard were not up yet. But there was a fence where I could let the dogs out to shake off the stress of the flight, as long as I watched the gate. The crates were all moved into the house – of course my new house would start out as a kennel, very suitable for me…
It was much colder than I had anticipated, foggy and damp. The next morning, I began to discover things about north Italy that I had not really been told before.
Northern Italy is very beautiful, at any time of year. The scenery is breathtaking. But we are used to thinking of the bright sunlight and warm weather of summer. In winter, the beauty is there, accompanied by almost constant clouds, fog, occasional rain, and bone chilling cold. The cold is not extreme like in northern Europe, it just feels that way, especially to me!
And the most outstanding characteristic of the Emilia region in winter is constant, deep, sticky, slippery mud. One of the first words I found it necessary to learn in Italian was "melma" – mud! The land here is rich and heavy, and the mud is thick and clings relentlessly to everything – boots, clothes, dogs' feet…My dogs were quite perplexed by this slippery muck when they went out. How were they supposed to run around in this? And soon their feet were caked with mud and it was smeared all over as they tried to play and slipped and slid around. My boots had about two kilo of mud thoroughly stuck to them, and of course the house/kennel floor was invisible under the layer of black mud.
We developed a routine – dogs out, back inside to their crates, and then mud clean up. This could be expected to continue until next April. No one had warned me that winter is not a good time to move to Italy…
And to my even greater surprise, the second discovery of what this part of Italy is rich in was – DUST!!! How a place can be muddy and dusty at the same time is something I have not been able to understand, but everything is constantly covered with a layer of grey dust. It seems to take only minutes for this layer to renew itself after it has been cleaned, so all surfaces have to be dusted at least several times a day. Areas that are not, build up a layer of dust that within a day or two is thick enough to plant a garden…
It was a very hard adjustment for me in the first days. A move under any circumstances is stressful, but this has been an enormous change. As there has been comparatively little money, much of which was needed just to move the dogs and myself here, we have been able to prepare just the basics for ourselves and the dogs, with the plans to go on improving things as we can and when there is money for it. As much as possible, we are doing things ourselves, building, cleaning, preparing, organizing.
So I find myself truly in a new beginning. It is as if I have gone back to the beginning of Shaar Hagai, and am building it all again, making kennels, carrying materials, and all sorts of manual labor that I have not done for a very long time – and I am really pleased to find out that I still can! Not only am I doing the things I was doing forty some years ago, but I am feeling like I felt then, with some of the annoying little health problems and aches and pains seeming to have disappeared. Maybe because I don't have the time to think about them.
The pace of life is slower and more relaxed here. People have time. They are not in a rush, they are not too busy to talk to you and smile, nothing is too crowded and busy (of course the difference between being in the city or the country). They take a break from work in midday, they sit and enjoy their meals, they play with their children, they walk in the woods…The first days I spent here, I was out of synch, I was still on the modern world speed track. But I find myself very different already, able to take things easier, look around and enjoy the beautiful scenery (despite the mud, and the fog, another characteristic of Emilia in the winter), and not worry about being late for anything…
The dogs are also adjusting better and faster than I could have imagined. Life for them here has had some surprises, but few sources for stress.
This will be a great and interesting adventure! Where it will lead…well, we will see…there is time….
For anyone interested in the story of the original Shaar Hagai - you can find it on Amazon.com in my book "Tails of Shaar Hagai" - a great read for the holidays!