As I’ve said before (I think MANY times, so if I keep repeating myself on this, please forgive me. I’m setting these little stories up for those who may not have read any of the previous ones…) my family was stationed in Germany for a few years in the early 70’s when my father was in the Army. While we were there, we went to Italy several times for vacation. My parents were stationed THERE when they were much younger– in fact, it’s where I was born– in a small town named Vicenza. My folks both speak fluent Italian and have many friends there.

There was a couple named Batista (the husband) and Justina (the wife) that were my some of my parents’ closest friends in Italy. They were an older couple (older than my parents– and of course VERY old to a couple of young squirts like me and my brother). Batista made wonderful sweet wine in his cellar, and his wife Justina was an incredible cook (as are so many Italians)– and they were both very sweet people. They had a big, equally sweet black dog named ARGO. If I remember correctly, he was something like a German Shephard/Husky mix. Maybe not Husky– but he definitely had Shephard in him. He absolutely DOTED on my brother Matt, even though we only saw him at the most five or six times during our times in Germany/Italy. There was some sort of instant connection between Argo and Matt. Argo liked me as well, but not like he did my brother. Maybe because Matt was the smallest, it brought out the nurturing, protective side of Argo. I’m not sure what it was– but it was special.

Unfortunately, when we were very young kids, I had a tendency to pick on Matt. I’m sure this is universal with all siblings and something that’s happened from the beginnings of humankind — but I still feel guilty about my childhood behavior toward my bro…. even now, so many years after that behavior has ended. (An aside– the picking behavior ended, coincidentally, when my brother grew to be about 3 inches taller, and much larger than me– able to kick my ass. Funny how that works out, huh?) Well, one day while we were visiting Batista and Justina, Matt and I were out playing in their yard, with Argo supervising. I was pushing Matt in a little wagon around the yard, and sure enough– my brotherly instinct to tease and pick kicked in. I started pushing him around in this little wagon faster and faster, to the point that Matt started to get scared. He asked me to stop several times, each time a bit louder and in a more agonized way. This only spurred me on to greater “heights” of pushing faster and giggling. When Matt’s consternation turned loud enough, Argo stepped in to stop it.

Argo moved in quickly– very quickly. He herded my away from Matt and the wagon with a low, menacing growl deep in his throat. He was looking at me in a way that said “HEY– this kid is my GOOD FRIEND, and you’re making him scared! I don’t like that, and if you keep it up, I’m REALLY NOT GOING TO LIKE YOU!” I backed up against the wall of the house, suddenly really afraid, with Argo facing me, his yellow eyes glaring into mine. I didn’t want to be scared of Argo– I really liked him, and I had sudden flashes of getting bitten by this dog I was really fond of. It was terrible. Fortunately, Batista saw what was happening from the window, and yelled out “Argo– BASTA!” It was like a spell was broken. Argo, suddenly his old self,trotted back over to Matt, with his tail wagging, to be greeted by my happy and grateful brother. Needless to say, I never teased Matt in front of Argo ever again, and Argo was always very sweet to me from then on. Not as sweet as he was to MATT, but sweet anyway. It was like nothing untoward had ever happened between us.

I have a great appreciation for Argo’s protectiveness for my brother more now than I did then. He was a wonderful dog– and that kind of loyalty, friendship, and love is something that is so common in dogs but seems so rare in mankind.

Matt could have used Argo a lot more when we weren’t in Italy, thanks to my brotherly “whims”.

Until he got bigger than me, that is….


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