Animal stories seldom have happy endings because animals just don’t live nearly long enough. So I want to get the sad ending out of the way right now: Archimede is no longer with us. However, he lived a full life, and this is the tale of the days when he ruled Orvieto.
We first saw the little wire-haired dachshund in 2006 while we were having lunch at an outside cafe on the main drag of town – Corso Cavour. He was alone, and we noticed that he was purposefully patrolling the street. We tried to lure him over to us with food, but he flatly refused. It was his job to keep the streets safe, and mere food could not deter him from this task.
We started seeing him almost daily. All the regulars in town knew his name, but he would just ignore them (and us) when they tried to get his attention. He took his job of protecting Orvieto very, very seriously.
Other dogs instinctively knew that this was Archi’s town. He would march up to any and all animals who dared walk on the Corso, sniff them in an authoritative manner, and you would then see the relief on the other dogs’ faces when he finally decided to give them the rite of safe passage down the street. The fact that in many cases Archi had to jump up to do his sniffing because of his short dachshund legs did not lessen the impact of his power.
We wondered how these other dogs knew this was Archi’s territory. One day we were on the Corso MUCH earlier than usual – just when the shop owners were getting ready to open. All of them were cleaning up the area in front of their stores, making sure any littler and dirt were swept and washed away. As soon as they were done, Archi marched down the street, lifting his leg on every single doorstep. He was the sindaco, or mayor, of Orvieto, and he, in effect, posted a reminder of his authority every single day.
The café where we first saw him changed hands, and the new owners made sure there was always water outside for him and any of his friends he wanted to invite for a drink – though I must say that we never actually saw him allow anyone else to drink from his bowl.
There was a very nice restaurant in a little piazza right behind the Corso where he would also hang out. That’s where we discovered that the reason he hadn’t taken food the first time we saw him had less to do with his attention to duties and more to do with what we were offering him. What he really preferred was the pasta with cinghiale (wild boar) sauce from this restaurant. Once we found this out, we would entice him to sit at our table. But true to his character, though he would lower himself to dine with us, his attitude always made it clear that he was doing us a favor and didn’t plan to linger after the food ran out.
One day when we were in the post office, we saw a little wire-haired dachshund come bounding in the door. There was no purpose to his gait, no seriousness on his face….only pure joy. It took us a few seconds to recognize this creature as Archi, but indeed, it was. He was with his owner — a very attractive Italian woman – and there was no mistaking the fact that he was totally in love with her. From then on, we didn’t need to see her in order to know she was around. Archi would turn from the benevolent dictator of the streets into a teenage boy in love for the first time. His little dachshund feet barely touched the ground when he scampered along with her….he ignored other dogs…..I’m betting he’d even forego cinghiale sauce if the choices were sauce or owner. You could almost see cartoon-like little hearts floating out of his body. While it was nice to see he had a soft side, it was SO out-of-character that we were always happy when he turned his mind back to his job as The Enforcer.
Orvieto without Archimede just hasn’t been the same. Oh sure…there’s the calico cat down by another café, but though she’s picturesque when she sits on the motor scooter seat, she has no desire to keep the town safe from intruders. At the other end of town there’s a little gray poodle, but he’s a totally ineffective ruler.
I think the town should commission a bronze Archi statue. They could put a track down the Corso, so he would continue to patrol the street all day, and it could be rigged so whenever another dog passed by, the statue would jump up like it was sniffing them. After all those years of keeping the town in order, it’s the very least Orvieto could do to honor its former beloved sindaco.