The death of a loyal dog has made headlines in Italy when he died only a few months after his deceased owner whom he searched for in her local church near Brindisi.
The 13-year-old German Shepherd mix, Tommy, won Italians’ hearts when he began to attend the same church services that once drew his mistress, Maria Lochi, after she died in November 2012. Priests at the church of Santa Maria Assunta in the town of San Donaci welcomed Tommy, who became a regular, attending every mass, baptism, wedding and funeral, whether it rained or shined.
According to ‘La Repubblica’, Lochi looked after a number of strays dogs. She found Tommy abandoned in a field and took him home. From then on, he was always by her side and sat outside the church entrance whenever she went to Mass.
When Lochi died, Tommy followed her coffin into church. None of the mourners had the heart to stop him joining them at the funeral service. The town mayor, Domenico Serio, told ‘La Repubblica’ that all the locals wanted to adopt Tommy and he became “everyone’s dog” from the butcher’s to the baker’s.
Afterwards, whenever Tommy heard the sound of the church bells ringing to mark the beginning of services, he went to church, perhaps hoping his owner may reappear or because he remembered her own devotion. The devoted animal would sit in front of the altar, facing the congregation. Priests would descend into the aisles to give churchgoers the Eucharist so that Tommy would not be disturbed.
Father Donato Panna told ‘La Repubblica’ that Tommy was calm, quiet and bothered no one, and that none of the congregation complained about him. The cleric told ‘La Repubblica’ that sometimes he would leave the church open when Tommy wanted to stay there in the warm during the chilly winter months.
Tommy died earlier this month of a heart attack in a veterinary clinic in Fasano, after being taken there by Lochi’s son. The vets said that Tommy was suffering from various ailments that were aggravated by old age and the psychological impact of his owner’s death.