It was a very, very hot Southern Sicilian summer day, and the honey-gluey air was as sticky as Alessandro’s clothes. Nothing was moving, even the birds weren’t chirping as usual. The deserted streets’ huge oak trees sheltered the cows from across the street. The crickets’ chirps were deafening as droplets of sweat rolled down his forehead into his eyes. Alessandro made his way into the Rifugio to fix what seemed like a broken water pump. It was the sixth time it had happened over a period of just under a month, and the timing couldn’t have been worse. A few guests arrived that same day, and with no running water, we couldn’t have kept a family vacationing up there. Luckily, the air conditioning units functioned. The shade of the trees just enough to take the edge off of the unbearable heat.
An hour after working on the dysfunctional water system, Alessandro heard a few indistinct sounds coming from behind the small gate encircling the birds’ pen. The birds were secured inside their cool homes, and they wouldn’t have left their fresh environment in a million years. On a hot day when nothing seemed to be alive besides the blasting crickets and the fiery sun, nothing would have been more unusual than the sound of what seemed like the chirping or whining. Nothing he was typically accustomed to hearing at the sanctuary.
The cows and donkeys were located elsewhere on the property. The dogs were at Tecla’s shelter, where there was more shade. And they were definitely not sounds belonging to wild birds, either. Wild birds didn’t even have the strength to sing on that day. They typically came out in the evening hours when the weather had cooled down and the air had become less humid. The noise was something new, but in the same breath, familiar. Nonetheless, the sounds kept coming at random intervals and didn’t seem to want to stop.
After dropping the tool he had in his hand, he wiped his forehead and eyes and stood up, puzzled. What in the world can that be?, he must have said to himself, but because his preoccupation was with the broken-down water system and he knew that he had a limited amount of time to fix it, he kept ignoring the idea that maybe, and seriously maybe, something else needed his attention right away elsewhere. He couldn’t exactly pinpoint where those sounds came from, but he quickly figured out once he started walking behind the gate and around the pond with the papyrus trees. A treasure hunt that seemed to take him on a most mysterious journey of discovery. As he walked, the noises became louder, and yet they seemed muffled, almost like when you are in a chamber that absorbs sounds. He described them as something that is in slow-mode and blurred, maybe because even his brain was feeling as heated as the weather that day. Too much heat, too little water, almost sub-Saharan. It made reality feel like a dream.
And then he encountered a horrible sight. A group of five tiny puppies was trying to find a bit of shelter from the sun, and in doing so, they had hidden their little heads (but not their bodies) into the holes of the large rocks lining the pathway toward a large pasture. Someone must have dropped the puppies inside the Rifugio, and left them in hopes that we would rescue them and take care of them. They whimpered and were all breathing heavily. All except one, that is, because she had not been lucky enough to find a hole to shelter her little head. She was almost dead and looked at him confused, standing there in the blazing hot sun with no shelter.
These were extraordinarily small puppies- both because of their breed (they must have been a mix of beagle and some other smaller breed) and their age (maybe 3 or 4 weeks, at the most). Their heaving bodies outstretched from the hole in the rock. Curiously, there had been enough apertures for almost all of them to get protection in some arbitrary shade. It was a sight that Alessandro would never forget. He immediately rescued all of them and brought them inside. After grabbing some bottled water from the fridge, he poured the liquid into a large bowl, and while they started drinking at once, he smeared them with more cool water and offered them some crackers. They revitalized almost instantly, all besides the little girl who had suffered immense trauma from sun overexposure. She was too feeble to even drink, and although he freshened her with a wet towel, she would barely stand on her four paws. She kept lying down and looked completely disoriented.
After finding a box large enough to contain all the puppies, he soon after transported them to his mother’s dog shelter, where they placed them in a safe, cool, and dry area. Santi, the vet who is a great friend of ours, showed up the same afternoon and diagnosed them with overheating but also with mange and possibly even leptospirosis, which can prove fatal if untreated. All the puppies made it save the little girl who had also lost her eyesight. After a three-month treatment at Tecla’s shelter, they all found loving homes in which they now all joyfully play and are cared for, and all of them are sterilized and have been properly vaccinated. In the midst of the scorching heat, life found its way again thanks to love. Because where there is love, there is always life.