Monsieur Bobby’s Cold Nose

| January 31, 2011 | Comments (5)

Monsieur Bobby & Friends

Monsieur Bobby was a huge, beautiful Alsatian who belonged to Pierre and Rudy. They lived on an olive farm in Cortona, Italy.

At some point – it must have been the late 70s or early 80s – robberies became widespread in the area when lots of people with money began buying villas and farms around Cortona.  After Pierre and Rudy’s neighbors had been burgled, Monsieur Bobby was imported to keep the place safe.

Monsieur Bobby did his job too well, even suspecting visitors like myself who came up from Rome for the weekend. Poised outside the guest room, Monsieur Bobby would escort me everywhere I went. From the dining room to the terrace to the olive grove, he was there, inches away from my side, giving me a push with his huge, cold nose when he thought I had lingered too long in any one place, probably in his eyes, casing the joint for a good heist.

Inspite of my host’s warm hospitality, having Monsieur B tailing me all the time made me feel like an unwanted stranger. I needn’t have had that thought;  the boys told me that when Pierre’s mother visited the farm from France, Monsieur Bobby was so closely on her case that at one point, with an overly-assertive jab of his nose in her buttocks, he pushed her over the terrace onto the lawn below. Luckily the grass was overdue for a cutting so Maman landed on soft turf with no damage done.

I had met Pierre some years earlier  in what was then called Rangoon,  Burma where I was working for the United Nations.  Pierre was a big shot from the UN based in Rome and was on one of his field trips to “the bush” to check on projects and rally the troops in their war for development…or was it war against development ? One often got confused about what we were accomplishing  in those developing countries and who was benefitting more – we well-fed fat cats of the development set or the so-called recipients of our largesse.

In any case, when we met at a reception in Rangoon organized in his honor, Pierre and I clicked and he politely extended an invitation to look him up the next time I was in Rome. People should be warned not to extend polite invitations to me because I always take them up on their offers.

So several years later, there I was bathing in the gentle afternoon sun on Pierre and Rudy’s terrace, just having had the most perfect lunch of my life. I can tell you, if you have never had a simple but delicious collation composed of  local products – tomatoes, mozzarella,  basil, olive oil straight from the press , farmer’s bread and wine from down the road – you have never really lived.

I remember that afternoon as one of the rare, perfect moments in my life. Filled with the bounty of Cortona’s farms, drowsy and happy from too much wine,  the three of us dozed off as a bee buzzed in the honeysuckle climbing the terrace wall and a BBC broadcast droned almost inaudibly in the background, reminding us there was a world out there where things were happening.

I remember at one point Rudy getting up from his chair, walking over to the radio on the table and turning the volume up. The reader was announcing that a Korean Airlines plane had just been shot down over international waters by the Soviet military and all the passengers had perished.

We learned later that  Rudy’s sister was on that flight  on her way from the Philippines to the United States. Who could have imagined on such a perfect afternoon that such horrible things could be happening half-way around the world.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Candace Laws says:

    When I was growing up in Greenwich, CT; my father was at first a kennelman for Marie J. Leary, proprietor of Cosalta Kennels, Lake Avenue, Greenwich. Her breed was German Shepherd. She was one of the most famous German Shepherd breeders in America having won Best of Show at Westminster Kennel Club with Ch. Ace who would go on to sire many champions and they all looked like Monsieur Bobby. There were 63 of them precisely. In the spring when all the bitches whelped, they would wean the puppies quite young – about 8 weeks – and my big treat was to put their big round communal food pan down on the kennel floor and call “Puppy, puppy, puppy.” And all fifteen or so would come running with horse size feet and big floppy ears and pink tongues hanging out and would take great delight in knocking me over and then realizing it was chow time dropping me like a used chew toy.

    • Sam says:

      Love the image of those horse-sized feet gallumping and propelling their owner’s frames to the dinner table or rather the dinner pan.

      Sort of reminds me of feeding time here with our cats. Although there were only two of them, it was a noisy event. The late Raja, a 20-pound tuxedo would howl and pound the floor on his way to his Fancy Feast making me think of a stampede….hooves on the canyon floor!

  2. Roger Cranse says:

    Good story Sam and I love the pic. We buy our eggs at a local composting operation. They’ve got a couple hundred free range chickens running around a messy hillside. Two BIG dogs patrol the area to protect the chicks from night time predators. During the day the dogs, beautiful long haired guys, come down to your car to greet you. These fellows could tear you to pieces in a minute or two. You get out of the car and they accompany you up to the little store, one on each side. Get you eggs and the dogs walk you back to your car. One has serious wanderlust and when you open your car door he shoulders you aside to try to hop in. The first time I went there these fellows freaked me out. Now they’re like friendly chaperones – although I still know they could rip me apart in a nano. RC

    • Sam says:

      Yes, RC, dogs one loves and fears at the same time. In our ‘hood here in the Bronx,you can imagine what is the dog of choice. Yes, pit bull. I am told that of all dogs the jaw power of pit bulls knows no equal. Not sure why they are so popular in the ‘hood. Perhaps it is their reputed loyal and extreme desire to please. And it is really sad to see these dudes and their dogs with the dogs being hit and otherwise mistreated by the “masters.”
      I am told that American pit bulls are badly bred which leads sometimes to a dog “going bad” on its owner like the case recently of the old lady who was killed by her pit bull.

  3. Jeff says:

    A wonderful story.

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