Eclipse rides the bus solo in Seattle. She’s a black Labrador retriever mix whose owner took her many times downtown to a dog park. But when the owner got distracted one day at the bus stop, Eclipse hopped on the bus by herself. She knew exactly which stop to get off. Now her red harness is fitted with a bus pass. She is greeted on the bus by adoring fans and spends several hours at the park getting exercise and making friends. When it’s time to leave, she takes the bus home…solo.
Boji is Istanbul’s commuter dog. This Anatolian shepherd mix with golden-brown fur and floppy ears rides ferries, buses and trains and has won the hearts of citizens. Because he does not have an owner, city officials arranged for him to be vaccinated and fitted with a microchip to track his journeys. Boji has been to 29 metro stations in a day, traveling up to 20 miles.
Then there is Sandro who knows better than anyone how to negotiate the maze of alleys and calli, as well as gondolas and vaporetti, of Venice. A black mixed breed dog with burnished brown accents, Sandro stands barely a foot tall and weighs less than 12 pounds. Each morning, Sandro accompanies his owner Nicola Grossi, a Venetian gondolier, to work near the Rialto.
Their life together didn’t start out this way. Living at the time on the Lido, Nicola rescued Sandro from an early life of neglect; understandably Sandro was distrustful and unfriendly. But soon he followed Nicola on his bike going to work each morning at a store. He then met him at the end of the work day. In the meantime, he explored the 15 km long island and seemed to know every nook and cranny. When Nicola moved to Venice proper, Sandro accompanied him everywhere…first on foot, then in his small motor boat and in the gondola. As the youngest of 8 children, Nicola made many family visits with Sandro at his side, including to his mother on the island of Giudecca.
As Sandro’s cartography knowledge increased, he would often leave the gondola to pursue his own adventures. Then the phone calls started coming in with Sandro sightings. (Nicola’s phone number was written on the tag of Sandro’s collar.) “I saw your dog in Campo Santo Stefano” or “I saw your dog in San Polo”. Vaporetto crew members would call thinking the dog was lost. Nicola had to reassure them all that Sandro knew exactly where he was going. A favorite destination was Nicola’s mother’s place on Giudecca where he would receive lunch before taking off on another jaunt.
Sandro even understood the gondola system: Each gondola that departs from a particular station follows a set route. Nicola has always rotated from one day to the next among various stations, which meant that Sandro had to also learn various routes. And he had to learn them not only by water but also the same route on foot via the city’s labyrinthine streets. Toward the end of the day, Nicola would find Sandro waiting for him on a fondamenta (canal side) ready to rejoin him on the gondola.
Over the years, Sandro developed cataracts and had to stay closer to Nicola during the days. Then at the end of 2019, shortly before his 19th birthday, Sandro died. He took with him a complex internal map of Venice…by land and by sea.