Every day just before mass begins at Santa Maria Assunto Catholic church in San Donaci, in southern Italy, a loyal 7-year-old German Shepherd, named Ciccio, arrives and takes his place by the altar.
The dog's owner, Maria Margherita Lochi, 57, died two months ago, and Ciccio (aka "Tommy") has not missed a service since then at the beautiful church where the funeral was held and where Ciccio used to attend mass with his beloved mistress daily.
Maria had found the dog abandoned in a field and took him home. The loving and thankful animal followed her to church every day after that and was allowed to sit by her feet, according to a story from Bari, Italy, in the Repubblica.It.
After Lochi died, the dog "joined mourners at her funeral service" according to locals and "followed after Maria's coffin" as it was carried into the church. Ciccio (who has been called "Tommy" in some reports) continues to mourn, undoubtedly hoping one day his beloved mistress will reappear at the church.
“He’s there every time I celebrate Mass and is very well behaved,” said Father Donato Panna. “He’s still coming to Mass even after Maria’s funeral, he waits patiently by the side of the altar and just sits there quietly.”
Maria had two other rescued dogs, according to reports, but she and Ciccio formed a special bond and affection that has continued after her death and, undoubtedly, she will live in the heart of her beloved canine companion forever.
All the dogs were reportedly adopted into local homes in the village, but Ciccio has not forgotten that going to Mass was a special and important part of his life with Maria. He has been showing up "when the bell rings out to mark the beginning of services" ever since, Father Donato Panna says.
In the Italian news video (link below), the priest emphasizes that the dog is extremely quiet and those who attend mass have no complaints about him being there.
"He's there every time I celebrate mass and is very well behaved," Father Donato Panna told the Repubblica TV reporter. "He doesn't make a sound." None of the other parishioners has complained, Father Panna said, and villagers give the dog food and water and allow him to sleep nearby.
"I've not heard one bark from him in all the time he has been coming in," Panna added. "He waits patiently by the side of the altar and just sits there quietly. I didn't have the heart to throw him out—I've just recently lost my own dog, so I leave him there until Mass finishes and then I let him out."
Note: San Donaci is a commune (village/township) in Southern Italy on the southeast coast. It is mainly agricultural, growing primarily olives and grapes. It is not unusual for the pets in an Italian household to follow a family member who walks to a destination daily and then return to wait for them later.
Other Stories of a Pet's Undying Love
On January 30, 2013, we reported on a cat in Montagnana, Italy, named Toldo,who has not forgotten the kindness of Renzo Iozzelli, who adopted him from a cat colony when he was three months old, and he faithfully travels every day to guard the grave where Renzo was buried. Loyal Cat in Italy Visits Owner's Grave Daily, Brings Gifts http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/loyal-cat-italy-visits-owners-grave-daily-brings-gifts
On September 18, 2012, we wrote about Capitan, a magnificent German Shepherd bought by Miguel Guzman in 2005. Miguel died suddenly the next year and was buried at a cemetery in Villa Carlos Paz, central Argentina. The family claims that the dog has rarely left his grave and always returns before dark to guard his beloved master .Dog Loyally Guards Master's Grave for 6 Years, Family Says http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/dog-loyally-guards-master-s-grave-6-years-family-says