Gabriele Orlini

The giant leap

Those who live on the street know what the giant leap is. And Roosevelt, who today has a first name but also a last name, did it twice.
Published on 8 October 2023
roosevelt dog
Roosevelt in his home, the Italian Embassy in Montevideo | ©Lisa Zillio

Q: Ambassador, tell me--but Roosevelt, when you finish your term, will you stay in the embassy in Montevideo?

A: No kidding, Roosevy is leaving with us, of course!
... I have to take him with me on my motorcycle around Rome.

This post is also available in: Italiano

MONTEVIDEO – He led a quiet life, full of that primordial “tranquillity” that only the road can give to those who – of the road – had made it their home.
A daily routine of frolicking with the small animals in the park and the constant search for something to eat. Rummaging through the bins always full of interesting things that, tourists and vacationers alike, filled in the streets of the city’s grand park: 1,500 hectares of forests, green lawns, barbecue areas, facing the marvellous Rio de La Plata in Montevideo, Uruguay.

He led a quiet life. Also, he could always count on his master’s shoulder: a homeless man of many hopes and few certainties.
Those two, to look at them, were a photograph out of the words of Paul Auster: Willy and Mr. Bones just before the departure of their great adventure, the one worth a lifetime.
Seeing them together, one could tell they spoke the same language and had found their Timbuktu. Seeing them together, in their daily search for something to put in their stomachs, rummaging through the dumpsters in Roosevelt Park, it was clear that they could still rely on each other even if they had eaten nothing that day. And that was enough to make that life difficult, a life worth consuming. If only to be able to tell the story.

But the day came. Those who live on the street know it well. It is the day of the giant leap. And whether you are ready or not matters little. The day came when his master, tired and overwhelmed by the road, fell asleep one last time, perhaps dreaming of more dialogue with his trusty friend. That morning, Mr. Bones – the dog – was left alone. They were staring at a body that, by now, could no longer respond to their intimate being. Alone. In the big park. With many dumpsters to check.
He did not lose heart and continued to do what he knew for what seemed like a long time: chasing the small animals in the park, rolling around in the grass in front of the big river, rummaging through dumpsters.
But for the first time in his life, he was alone.

Rio de la Plata | ©Gabriele Orlini, 2023

The bad ones

You could see it if you strolled through the great Roosevelt Park in Montevideo. You could meet him and even pet him. He trusted people because in those few years of life, maybe 4, he could count on the serenity that his master had been able to give him.
He was a good dog, perhaps too much so, to face the road alone even though it was made, in that context, of green meadows facing the great river that becomes an ocean.

And so the men came. They seemed kind and perhaps at first even were kind. And he, the dog, trusted them because he was still unaware that not all men were like his master.
And there came the men who took him away from the big park that had been his only home and his only road.
They put a leash on him, and perhaps for a moment, thinking it was a gift, he even found himself wagging his tail. Unaware that that men – and that leash – were changing in a single moment all the life he had hitherto known.
And there were no more small woodland animals, no more grass to roll on, no more dumpsters to check.
There was a cage. It’s not too wide and still much narrower than his street. There were other dogs, like him, unsuspecting, frightened, but unlike what he knew to be angry and snarling.
There was an arena. There were many men around who, with great noise and shouting, incited him to do the one thing he could not do: fight. Biting. Biting, to survive. Until then, survival for him had meant a full dumpster. Now blood was a taste he had come to know.
Now, the signs of struggles were evident on that handsome, cheerful, black-haired dog like the night. Those big and small scars of those who, life, had to bite it for real.

The good ones

But men came, the good ones. He, however, had forgotten what they looked like. And he ran away. Far. He returned to his street, to the large park facing the great river that became an ocean and had seen him grow up. To his beloved dumpsters. And every time you tried to approach him, he would leave. Far. Only to return, but always remaining distant.
Good men, however, have one thing that others do not possess: patience. He would run away. And they were waiting for him. And one day, he let himself be approached.

It was a big step for him. He wanted to give trust and receive new life in return.
No more dumpsters to rummage through but a bowl full of just the right things for him. No longer the road to greet him but a warm, dry kennel. Discovering the joy of a game to own and destroy, and persuasive and loving voices in educating him.
The life which had him born and raised in Parque Roosevelt now welcomed him clean and fragrant in the residence of the Italian Ambassador in Montevideo. Free to walk the halls of the palace, with always open access to the kitchen and a plane ticket ready for his giant trip giant leap.
After – perhaps five years – the dumpster-robbing dog has found a family.
And to remember where he came from and tell him where he is now, his name is Roosevelt Iannuzzi.

Roosevelt Iannuzzi, Montevideo | ©Lisa Zillio
Text: Gabriele Orlini 
Original text in Italian - In house translation
Parque Roosevelt, Avenida a la Playa, Ciudad de la Costa Dipartimento di Canelones
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