Grigio: Father Bosco's Guardian Angel

Grigio, described by many as a German shepherd-looking dog, would appear out of nowhere to protect Father Bosco from the anti-clerical factions in Italy during the 19th century.

"Photographic enlargement of the grey wolf defender dog of Don Bosco"

John Bosco (1815-1888), popularly known as Don Bosco, was an Italian Roman Catholic priest - and declared a Saint some 40 years after his death. The good priest devoted his life to helping the disadvantaged youth, and was hated by many evil people who wanted him dead.

One dark evening in 1852 as Father Bosco walked through the deserted streets of Turin, in northern Italy, a big grey dog approached him. At first the priest was scared but quickly realized the dog was friendly as he gently greeted him with a wagging tail. The dog walked alongside Father Bosco and when they arrived at the gate to his home the dog trotted away.

That was the first of many encounters the two had when the priest would walk at night. The dog, who Father Bosco named Grigio (the Italian word for grey), would appear out of nowhere then disappear when the priest safely reached his destination. On two occassions Grigio fought off attackers by knocking them to the ground, and on another occasion the dog's fierce look and savage growls were enough to scare a mob of assailants away.

One night Father Bosco was determined to go out to attend to an urgent matter despite his mother's pleas to stay home. As the priest approached his gate he saw Grigio lying in front of it. He was happy to see the dog thinking he would follow him but Grigio would not budge or let Father Bosco go pass him. The priest's mother told him if he wasn't going to listen to her he should at least listen to the dog, who had more sense than him. Father Bosco stayed and about 15 minutes later he learned that some dangerous men were waiting down the road to kill him.

As long as the persecution lasted Grigio was there to protect Father Bosco and when the danger passed he stopped coming. For years Grigio was not seen, until one night in 1866 when the priest went to visit a friend. As he walked down the dark road he remembered a couple of guard dogs were close by and wished Grigio was with him. At once the big grey dog appeared at his side. They headed to his friend's farmhouse and when the two guard dogs came after them Grigio scared them away. They made it to the friend's house safely and Grigio laid in a corner of the room while the priest and his friend dined. Later, when Father Bosco turned around to offer Grigio some food the dog was no longer there. This time his disappearing act was not just trotting away, he left a home with the door and windows shut. This was the last encounter Father Bosco had with Grigio.

When Father Bosco was asked to give an opinion on the nature of the grey dog "...he admitted that the dog was a creature worthy of note in his life. Although saying that the dog was an angel would have certainly made ​​people laugh, nevertheless he had to admit that he was not a common dog. Don Bosco often thought about the origin of that dog and he admitted that he had been a true gift from Providence."

The top picture is an enlargement of this one. You can see the dog in the lower right corner. -1959

Almost a hundred years after Father Bosco's last encounter with Grigio a dog fitting the description of Grigio was spotted outside a church where Bosco's casket laid. According to Bro. Renato Celato, the dog somehow managed to get inside the locked church and was crouched under the casket. When the casket was transported to another destination the dog was seen following the van for several miles before disappearing.


Dash: Queen Victoria's Closest Childhood Companion

Dash was the first of many dogs in Queen Victoria's life. He truly was her best friend during her younger years.

Painting of Dash

Victoria's childhood was not easy. She was raised under the Kensington System, a set of strict rules and regulations that were designed to make her weak and dependent on her mother, the Duchess of Kent. The only child of a similar age she had contact with was the daughter of Sir John Conroy (the Comptroller of the Duchess's household) but their friendship was more of a formal acquaintanceship.

Dash, a King Charles Spaniel, came into Victoria's life in 1833 when she was a teenager and the dog and Princess soon became inseparable. She would dress him in a scarlet jacket and blue trousers, give him gifts at Christmas, and refer to him as "dear sweet little Dash" and "dear Dashy" in her diary.

Dash remained with Victoria after her accession to the throne in 1837, and after her coronation, the first thing Queen Victoria did when she returned to Buckingham Palace was give Dash his bath. It is also said that Prince Albert won Victoria's heart because of his kindness towards Dash. The two married in 1840, the same year Dash passed away at the age of ten. The Queen buried Dash herself at Adelaide Cottage in the grounds of Windsor Castle, with the epitaph "...His attachment was without selfishness, His playfulness without malice, His fidelity without deceit, Reader, if you would live beloved and die regretted, profit by the example of Dash."

I want to thank Claire for suggesting this topic.


Stickeen: Explored Alaska with John Muir

Stickeen became famous for the impact he had in John Muir's life during their Alaskan adventure in the late 1800s.

In 1880 John Muir (an environmental philosopher), Reverend S.H. Young, the Reverend's dog Stickeen and an Indian crew set out in a canoe from Fort Wrangell to explore the icy region of Alaska. When Muir saw the small black dog he told the Reverend it would be best to leave him behind. "This trip is not likely to be good for toy-dogs. The poor silly thing will be in rain and snow for weeks or months, and will require care like a baby." The Reverend assured him his dog would be alright.

Muir initially described the two year old dog as "a queer character -- odd, concealed, independent, keeping invincibly quiet, and doing many little puzzling things that piqued my curiosity." None of the men could figure out what he was good for. "He seemed to meet danger and hardships without anything like reason, insisted on having his own way, never obeyed an order, and the hunter could never set him on anything, or make him fetch the birds he shot."

Stickeen (named after the Indian tribe living near the fort) was mostly motionless on the canoe ride through the long channels and inlets of the Alaskan coast, but when a landing was about to happen he would plunge into the cold water and swim ashore as the canoe neared the beach. Stickeen was always the first out of the canoe, and the last to get in. When it was time to leave, Stickeen would hide in the brush and refuse to come when called. He would wait until the canoe was a fair way off then swim to the boat, knowing the men would stop their rowing and bring him aboard. Hoping to put a stop to this, the men would keep rowing farther out so the dog would think they were abandoning him. The ploy did not work - "the longer the swim the better he seemed to like it."

Stickeen took a liking to Muir and began following him on all his hikes, no matter how tough the terrain. Once Muir had to make a set of moccasins out of a handkerchief for him to wear because his injured paws were leaving behind a trail of blood. "However great his troubles he never asked for help or made any complaint, as if, like a philosopher, he had learned that without hard work and suffering there could be no pleasure worth having."

One morning, Muir set out on his own to explore a large glacier during a blizzard, a journey that was surely not meant for a small dog. His hopes was to leave Stickeen behind but the determined dog insisted on going. Stickeen followed Muir without effort as they crossed flooded streams, hiked up and down icy slopes, and leapt over deep crevasses - until they came upon a crevasse that was too wide to leap. Instead they would have to climb down an ice wall, cross over on a sliver of ice, then climb up an ice wall to reach the other side. For the first time, Muir saw a troubled look on the dog's face as he looked into the crevasse. He whined, and ran back and forth frantically in search of a safer way to cross. "His looks and tones of voice when he began to complain and speak his fears were so human that I unconsciously talked to him in sympathy as I would to a frightened boy." When Muir made it to the other side, it took a long time for him to finally convince the scared dog to cross. Stickeen did make it over to the other side, and the moment he knew he was safe he became over excited with happiness. "Never before or since have I seen anything like so passionate a revulsion from the depths of despair to exultant, triumphant, uncontrollable joy."

The two made it back safely to camp that night, and the once independent dog did not want to leave Muir's side during the rest of the trip. "I have known many dogs, and many a story I could tell of their wisdom and devotion; but to none do I owe so much as to Stickeen."

You can read John Muir's story Stickeen: The Story of a Dog at:

I want to thank Jim Lawrence for bringing this story to my attention.