On an unseasonably warm Super Bowl Sunday in Hollywood, California, I took the afternoon to visit my good friend Kathleen, and her 12 year old Italian greyhound Bella.
I arrived in her neighborhood, perched atop a skinny street just above the heart of Hollywood, and sent a text to Kathleen letting her know I was there. "We'll come meet you!" she responded — immediately indicative of how she values her relationship with Bella. They're equals. They're a team. They're a "we".
As I met them just outside their apartment building, I was greeted with a hug from Kathleen and skepticism from Bella. Not in a vicious or rowdy way, but it's clear that Bella requires thorough vetting before feeling comfortable with somebody in her home.
"She'll bark for a few minutes, but then she'll quiet down" Kathleen remarked — justifying Bella's apparent protectiveness over her owner. I didn't mind — in fact, I appreciated it. Dogs are passionate creatures. That's why we love them.
Upon entering Kathleen (and Bella's) carefully decorated mid-century style home, I began to get a feeling for how well an Italian greyhound fits into Kathleen's life, stylistically. She has a clear aesthetic theme throughout her home that draws direct parallels with the breed — unique, but simplistic. Chic, but slightly adventurous. Italian greyhounds are all of those things, and Bella clearly fits in with her surroundings.
"I got Bella when I had just graduated from college. I was 23, and living with a boyfriend at the time in Orlando. He had an Italian greyhound, and I fell in love with his dog. At one point I could tell the relationship was ending, but knew I would miss his dog, so I looked in the classifieds section of the newspaper for Italian greyhound puppies. I saw an ad, and immediately called to look at them."
Kathleen went on to explain what exactly about the Italian greyhound breed appealed to her so strongly — describing them as "perfect companions", "so loving, so sweet" and "pretty low maintenance too".
"They have their own neurotic mental issues, but they're just the sweetest, kindest cuddlebugs and I always really loved that". Right on cue, Bella hopped onto the couch and made herself comfortable between the two of us.
"I knew I wanted a female, and I wanted a small dog. There were two females in the litter, and one of them was the runt, so even before I visited the litter, I had pretty much decided that was the dog I would come home with. When I got a chance to visit them, the runt wanted nothing to do with me — meanwhile, the other female came right over, nudging my hand, begging me to play with her. So really, she chose me."
I proceeded to ask Kathleen about a tattoo on her inner arm — Bella's name — which I had noticed in the past but never heard the story about how it came to be.
"I was dating a tattoo artist at the time, and had been wanting to get Bella's name tattooed on me. He came to visit me in New Jersey with his tattoo gun and ink, and right there in my kitchen, he did it". Bella was only a year and a half old at this point, but it was clear even then that their meaningful relationship had solidified enough for this permanent display of love.
"I got it to honor my unconditional love for her, but more so it's a reminder that things do get better", she explained, as Bella nudged my hand, begging for affection.
"I was depressed when I got Bella, and I figured a puppy would make me happy. I never imagined having her in my life would be so revolutionary. She taught me to be more selfless and patient."
The sun was about an hour from setting, so it was at this point we decided to take Bella for a walk around the neighborhood. It had cooled down quite a bit, and we wanted to enjoy the final moments of golden sunlight before it got dark. Bella jumped at the idea as soon as she heard the word "walk" followed by the jingling of her leash. Italian greyhounds are as athletic as they appear, and even in her old age she loves to get outside and stretch her legs.
It quickly became clear that Bella is a bit of a celebrity around the neighborhood — with nearby dog owners stopping us as we walked by just to say hello to her. She has friends, she has fans, and people seem to be genuinely intrigued by her. In a town where Chihuahuas and Pomeranians are a dime-a-dozen, the Italian greyhound definitely stands out.
The sun began to set just as we returned to the apartment, so we took to Kathleen's porch for a view of the streets of Hollywood, which had turned a vibrant golden pink. Kathleen picked up Bella, to bring her above the railing of the balcony so that she could enjoy the view as much as we were. She's about as big of a dog as you'd ever want to carry, but her affectionate nature means she's right at home in Kathleen's arms.
"I can have the worst and most stressful day at work, but when I come home she runs to the door, jumping up and down and kissing me. I live for those moments — walking up the stairs knowing that she's going to greet me with a hug. She's been there for me during some of the hardest times, and I couldn't imagine getting through that without her."
Special thanks to Kathleen Perricone and Bella for inviting me to come hang out, take pictures, and document this great dog.
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