Essay

Ikaro’s last summer: A moving tale of one man’s final travels with his rescue dog

Julian Machin’s rescue dog Ikaro had only experienced conflict and neglect. Suffering from severe juvenile arthritis, he was given a new lease of life with his new owner. For five of their six years together, they enjoyed carefree travels around Europe. But their worlds came crashing down when a vet confirmed Julian’s worst fears about Ikaro’s health

Saturday 04 November 2023 06:30 GMT
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<p>Julian Machin on his travels with rescue dog Ikaro</p>

Julian Machin on his travels with rescue dog Ikaro

Of all the places where we could have spent Ikaro’s last summer, I’m happy it was in the Lunigiana, the mountainous, many-rivered historic region of northern Tuscany. Although a city dog, he loved the shallow waters of the nearby river Bardine, which cooled and washed away months of accumulated heat from Seville. Immersed in its lustre, alongside inquisitive brown trout, we drifted towards September while figs and persimmons slowly ripened. With his ball, Ikaro forever watched me swim, though his dark eyes showed little movement. We had driven 85,000 miles together and seemed to be in a paradise without end. I could read, too, in the liquid depths of those eyes, the narratives that Ikaro had always offered in his ardent desire to communicate:

“We’re back in the house in the wood on the hill. There are too many chickens. There’s the river. I guard my ball. The river doesn’t try to take it. My J swims too far. I bark and he comes back. In the mornings we’re alone. Later children come. My J moves stones in the river. He wants it to run free. Children want to block it. I think his idea is better. I don’t love all those chickens. They’re OK I suppose.”

He loved the Italian family above who’d welcomed us back to their house, which grew out of woods overlooking a misty valley and mountains beyond. Hens roamed into our quarters, especially “Tempesta”, seeking to feast at Ikaro’s bowl. She was a beautiful diva, hitching up her feathers like a panto dame and running, as though for her life, if ever he chased her away. But there was no malice in Ikaro. This was clear, in the dewy soft darkness of his eyes, first seen at Battersea, six years before.

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