I had the good fortune to visit Italy in December 2008, and on a sunny, cool day toured the nearly deserted streets of Pompeii with a guide named “Big Nicky,” who is, in fact, rather on the small side. Among the ruins of the ancient Roman city, I was delighted to spy several healthy looking strays—apparently a few of the dozens on the premises. I learned from Big Nicky that the dogs are cared for by Pompeii staff.
I was equally pleased to get a more complete and updated picture of Pompeii’s strays in recent New York Times story about the Italian government’s efforts to improve conditions at the important archaeological site. One facet of these efforts is an organization called (C)Ave Canem (a play on “Ave Canis,” which means Hail Dog), which has been helping find homes for the strays, who’ve been given names such as Plautus, Lucius and Polibia, over the course of one year. Twenty-two have been adopted so far.
Good for the dogs but maybe a loss for Pompeii. I felt like they gave the ghostly city a feeling of being inhabited again.