We had been side tied to Molo Brin for days as I wasinstalling a new water maker. She was always within scratching distance if she could be. (At night she turns into the ultimate guard dog, warning passers by to keep their distance with the slightest growl.) Protective.
And last night, with more than a dozen partiers walking along the walk, Athena woke me to let me know. I calmed her down, and she went back to sleep. We both did.
But this morning, this Friday, the 13th, no Athena.
Maybe she had been curious, I know she LOVES soccer balls. Goes CRAZY for people playing games. Maybe she just got curious.
But a stray, with that bright red harness, and that huge tag, I kept expecting a call.
So all I could think was the worst.
I was emotional, and made a very quick, irrational post on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. I used the word “stolen.” Maybe that was wrong, probably was wrong. But at the moment, I barely thought about the wording. I just wanted to let the community know she was out there.
Then the story and the search went viral.
Two posts, at this moment, now up to 600 shares and 50,000 looks. Wow, wow, wow. This broke records, and my heart. People I didn’t even know who follow me, reached out with sympathy.
One guy, a local, Paolo, started texting me with random sightings. This is a small town, and despite the tourists, the locals see all.
He started getting messages thru the late night hours, that she had been spotted but no one could catch her. She wouldn’t be caught.
Paolo was especially aware, because we had first met at his day job, in the industrial district, a few weeks ago, as I had come in to find parts for my boat. As always, Athena came with, and he noticed the strong bond between us. So he began to follow my Instagram, Grateful Travel.
But the idea that Athena was not approachable was so foreign to me. When I first met her a month ago in the shelter, she was way in the back row, in the newer kennels. She had a super thick coat. And living on a boat, I was hoping for a dog with less hair, but I reasoned I would just spend time brushing. Why not, I have the time.
But soon after she came to live with me, I began to brush off that first thick coat of hair – the type that leaves a hand covered in short blond hairs from a simple pat – which she gets LOTS of – I started to notice that she was getting a tighter and shinier coat. As a side note, I took her to all the beach parties and she would get loved on, to the point where now she barely sheds at all. I don’t even have to brush her now. This is the thing about love, when we get an abundance, it cures almost all our other ills.
Still, my phone never rang. Another day, and night, the silence was deafening.
Then, at 6:30 the next morning, I got a WhatsApp video of Athena being picked up by another local, Giada. Olbia, Sardenga, it turns out, has one of best run dog shelters in the world…lidaolbia.it The shelter is headed up by the wise, happy, always smiling, Cosetta Prontu. 700 dogs and 300 cats, live in a sheltered space just below the approach end of the Olbia Airport. (If you’re sitting on the left side of the plane, next time you fly in, just about the time your phone finally lights up before touchdown, glance outside and down. They are all there, animals in shelter, waiting for love and support from a potential new owner, wanting to become part of your family.)
A few calls later, and another volunteer, Sergio, asked if I needed a ride to the shelter. Sergio proceeded to tell me his story on the ride over.
Forty years an oil broker, retired. As life went on, he became more and more in tuned with the natural world, and especially animals, to the point where he no longer wanted to kill any animal to eat. Along his new journey, he began to volunteer at the Olbia Shelter. And more than anything, what he began to notice, was this unending happiness and glow he felt around Cosetta. (Having met her for the initial checkout of Athena, I can totally attest to this.) She’s sort of a small town Mother Teresa for animals.
So Sergio started spending more and more time at the shelter, to the point where he has now personally built a few of the bigger kennels, almost single handedly. And he says that it continues to make him the happiest he’s ever been in his life. But he also told me that despite the fact that this shelter gives so many public service benefits, it is only partially funded by the City of Olbia, and that there is so much more they could do if only they had additional funding. With an annual budget of $600,000, could you imagine if this shelter didn’t exist at all? It would be animal mayhem on the streets of Olbia.