Book excerpts

When Olivia showed the picture of Renzo it was clear – all at once. Boom, no hesitation – we would adopt him. There was no other option. I cannot explain how it happened, I just made the decision and when I have made a decision I cannot be dissuaded.

Olivia was also on board. Noah was not a problem. Now it was only Sophie. Oh my god, should I just come home dragging a street dog in from Romania. What a crazy idea. I looked at the photo again. White fur with a hint of yellow. He probably shed a lot. And we already had two large poodles just because they didn’t shed. Oh well, I would just have to take care of the vacuum cleaning from now on.

Already the next day it was decided. I wrote a letter the dog shelter and told them about our family, about us, the children and the dogs and how we live. I received an answer immediately.

“You have been approved.” The process could begin.

I was right away deeply moved by the dogs in Romania. The whole world is full of misery. Children are starving. War, injustices and pestilence reign. It is horrible. But that did not do it for me. I wasn’t passionate about it.

But they very idea of the dogs in the shelter caused my chest to tighten. This fine dog, Renzo, had become the “bully victim”, that word that Olivia found so funny. At dawn the other dogs would descend upon him. I was just so sad at the thought of it. I would wake up and cry over it in the middle of the night…

Renzo pressed into a corner of the kennel. He licked some blood from a wound on his hind leg where one of the other dogs had bit him earlier that same day. The kennel assistant hadn’t noticed, neither the wound nor the attack.

Renzo’s life with the young dogs was not as in the puppy kennel. In the shelter world it was all about attacking and cowering. Renzo was no fighter and soon became the main shelter victim. It was as if the other dogs could smell his fear. Now his days consisted of avoiding attacks from the others. He cowered in his sleeping corner throughout the day. At dawn, before the others woke up, he could sneak up to the food and water bowls and eat and drink. Sometimes he succeeded, when he was silent and limber. Sometimes he was chased away, sometimes bitten. He was rarely full.

For a while a dog even lower in rank than Renzo entered the shelter. But the male black dog didn’t understand how bad the situation was, coming straight from the puppy kennel. He tailed forward to the food before the others were finished. In a flash the others were on top of him with bared teeth. He was carried, unconscious, out of the shelter a little while later. He never came back.

Renzo was so badly bitten that he was taken to the veterinarian on multiple occasions, to be bandaged and get stitches. Those were some of the few times he wasn’t scared.

If the fear and hunger played a lead role in Renzo’s life, then the suffering and melancholy were strong supporting roles. His whole world was gravel on the ground and tall fences. There wasn’t much to keep him busy, but sometimes the dogs got to come out into a larger play area, where there were even some toys. But it didn’t result in much exercise or new impressions. Many of the dogs were so bored that they chewed their own paws to pieces…