People said he was beautiful, but to be honest he was a bit of a scruff. Hair always a bit too long and tangled and adorned with bits of bracken (he had the sweetest nature except when I tried to comb his legs!). Paws muddy from forays into streams and ponds for a drink - why waste time lapping from a bowl when you can just stick your head in and suck?
But then when he moved …. I never saw a dog with such effortless grace and elegance. As a young dog, he seemed to defy gravity, and when he was older he still had the gait of a thoroughbred, with a tireless trot which made him seem unbreakable.
All this combined with his fuzzy face was a winning combination and he had lots of admirers. Just seeing him always seemed to cheer people up, and provided a lift to their spirits even on the gloomiest of days.
For his close family, there were many endearing characteristics which became part of the daily routine. His day would start with a nose prod in the face for Mum & Dad (three times to either side of the bed), followed by a hunting expedition to the childrens rooms – success celebrated by a little sock tossing exhibition. He would have a long walk every morning, along the canal or in the woods and hills of Lyme Park, mainly off the lead. Running free was what he loved the most, and he had such an amiable temperament that we could usually trust him not to get into trouble.
Getting back home he would be feeling hungry, and expected his bowl to be full. Otherwise he had a little routine worthy of an Oscar, which involved staring into the empty bowl with an air of bewilderment, then staggering backwards in exaggerated astonishment: “What – no food!? How difficult can it be to roast a chicken?”. His diet was supplemented by the occasional doggy chew, which he treated as though it was live and possibly dangerous. He would lunge backwards and forwards, pouncing on it with tail wagging until eventually, having demonstrated his prowess as a mighty hunter, settling down to demolish it.
We loved the way he would howl in accompaniment to the sirens of emergency vehicles along the Silk Road. Apparently, this is a Spinone trait – which I like to think is due to years of training by the Mafia. He had an enquiring mind, whether it was observing planes flying over, watching the moon rising, or looming over me to study my latest DIY project. Possibly he was hoping for a stick to be left over which could be added to his collection for an enjoyable chew by the fire in the evening. He always liked to have at least a dozen to choose from and had his own quite inscrutable selection criteria.
A little less endearing was his Spinone sense of humour which included appearing in the living room with black muddy legs and green duckweed hanging from his face after drinking in the garden pond. Cue panic rush for towels.
In his final year, he began to lose his sight, and his back legs became progressively weaker. This proved to be a bad combination as he often fell over and found it difficult to get up again. But he didn’t give up and, sometimes with a little help, he would get back on his feet and rumble on down the road. Somehow the dog we thought was a bit of a wimp, who hid behind the sofa during thunderstorms and was chased by a spaniel more than once, turned out to be an example of dogged determination.
His quiet presence was part of what made our house a home. He never saw himself as a guard, but rather as a friendly receptionist, who would always greet visitors with a soft toy in his mouth and an extremely waggy (but stumpy) tail.
Marco was a big part of our lives for 11 years. During that time, we must have been asked about 3 times a day “What sort of dog is that?”. (This seems to be a common problem - I once saw a guy in Cornwall with a T-shirt printed with the words “My dog’s a ***** Spinone”!). We should have got sick of it too, but somehow we didn’t, and were always proud to say “He’s a Spinone ….. an Italian Spinone”.