Middle Grade Action and Adventure Book about Dogs and Ghosts in Tuscany! DOWNLOAD TODAY

99 cents DOWNLOAD


My new Middle Grade chapter book Ruby and the Ghost Dog is finally out and just 99 cents for two days (20 and 21 June) only. It is inspired by my rescue English Setter Gassi  (that is his picture on the cover!) and my volunteer work for two years in an Italian dog shelter (“canile“). The book features reluctant 11-year-old psychic Ruby who has moved to Tuscany, Italy with her mother. She is soon targeted by a very special dog for a rather special mission and nothing in Ruby’s life will ever be the same again.

The book has already been downloaded almost 1000 times in two days and is hovering just outside the amazon top 100 so please give it a boost and download it! Once it goes back to being a paid book and starts making money then I aim to donate 10 per cent of sales to animal rescue. I want the book to raise awareness about animal rescue in Italy, in particularly the plight of dogs stuck in kennels, often for years.

The link is to amazon in the USA, but the book can be downloaded HERE for UK, HERE for Italy, HERE for Australia and HERE for Spain. It is available worldwide on amazon if you search for it by title. Please tell your friends as it all helps spread the word.

Praise for Ruby and the Ghost Dog

‘Fiona does a wonderful job helping children cope through any loss or isolation they may experience while growing up in a sometimes challenging and ever-changing world. Ruby and the Ghost Dog takes the reader on a fascinating journey which is filled with loss but that void is replaced with immense love supplied by the natural and supernatural in both human and canine form.  This is a must read for any child who has experienced any loss and/or any child that loves dogs!’ Prince Lorenzo Borghese, President www.animalaidusa.org and Ambassador to the American Humane Association

‘An enchanting tale that will appeal to dog lovers like me everywhere.’ Kay Burley, Sky TV presenter and Setter owner. 

‘In Ruby and the Ghost Dog we are reminded of the love between species, whether they are two legged or four pawed, and the beautiful connection which continues beyond death. Acknowledging grief for animals, as well as humans, this lovely story reveals the value of inter-species friendship. This book is a heartwarming ‘tail’ for all generations.’ Pea Horsley, Animal Communicator, teacher and author of ‘Heart to Heart: Incredible and Heartwarming Stories from the Woman Who Talks With Animals’ and ‘The Animal Communicator’s Guide Through Life, Loss and Love’. www.animalthoughts.com.

‘A mesmerising story that works on many levels. Ruby and Gassi’s relationship teaches us about loss and grief but also hope and love. We learn that dogs need us and that we need them as much, if not more. Ruby and the Ghost Dog will encourage everyone to think about all the dogs out there in difficulty and to think of adopting rather than buying a new dog.’ Pen Farthing, Founder and CEO of the Nowzad charity www.nowzad.com helping improve the welfare of animals in Afghanistan. Author of ‘One Dog at a Time’, ‘No Place Like Home’ and ‘Wylie’.


Alpacas in Tuscany – Breakfast!

Breakfast time for my alpacas in Tuscany

Breakfast time for my alpacas in Tuscany

Alpacas in Tuscany? Oh yes! These animals are rare in Italy an certainly the locals in my little village didn’t expect me to provide them with a mini petting zoo in this neck of the woods!

I have now got seven lovely alpacas. They live in my back garden, very close to the house. This means I can keep an eye on them easily. I check them three or four times a day and enjoy just watching them amble around to be honest!

My original idea was to have a little alpaca breeding programme, so I bought three pregnant females plus a companion female who, for various anatomical reasons, can’t be mated. Champagne, my big Suri female, ended up not being pregnant after all. The other two, Emilia and Diana, both huacayas, had two lovely boys, Brunello and Dolcetto. Watching  an alpaca being born in my garden was a wonderful experience. Sadly, Diana died from unknown causes when baby Dolcetto was just four months old, but he was big and strong and survived brilliantly.

Emilia went on to have another boy, Pomino and Champagne also had a boy, Merlot. (Can you see the wine theme going on here?) The boys were born within a day of each other, but one is Suri and the other huacaya so they are very different in temperament and size.

The alpacas' breakfast plus seed for the three handicapped pigeons

The alpacas breakfast plus seed for the three handicapped pigeons

Twice a day I take them their dishes of diced apples, carrots, Camelibra alpaca supplement, alfafa pellets and sugarbeet soaked in water. It is really sweet how they all run to their individual dishes and tuck in! Strictly speaking it isn’t necessary to give them anyof this except the supplement, but a) it is winter so they need a bit extra and b) I like doing it and so do they!

Can You Help Cleo?

Cleo needs a loving home


Cleo is a beautiful, gentle four-year-old crossbreed weighing around 20 kilos. She was adopted from Puglia by Laura and her husband as a companion for their other adopted dog, Juno acquired from a dog shelter in Pisa where they used to live. They tried their best to manage the two dogs, but Juno was very dominant and Cleo increasingly anxious and withdrawn. She was also very upset by traffic and the general hustle and bustle of city life.

Laura was also pregnant and they were worried Juno may attack Cleo and the baby might get caught in the middle. That is why, with broken hearts, when they relocated to London last year they decided to find Cleo a new home. They placed her with a dog behaviourist in the countryside in Tuscany and Cleo came on leaps and bounds, regained her confidence and played happily with the lady’s other five dogs.

Now the behaviourist has to move to the north of Italy and can’t take Cleo. This means that this lovely little dog may well end up in the canile or be dumped in a field and consigned to guard dog duties.

Laura and her husband are devastated at this news and have reached out to me to see if I can help find Cleo the loving country home she deserves.

Cleo is looking for a home

Cleo (top) needs a new home.

The deadline is the end of March.

Cleo is spayed, vaccinated, microchipped, has a pet passport and gets on well with other dogs and with children. She has not had any experience of cats. She is currently in Pontedera about half an hour from Pisa, but it may be possible to arrange transport to another part of Italy if the right caring owner is found.



Cell +44 7490 677979        Email lklaurayasmina@gmail.com


*UPDATE: Very happy to report that the situation was resolved and all the animals are safe and back in the UK!*

I have been contacted by Sarah in Abruzzo who for personal reasons has to return to the UK by 20 January. She is looking to rehome 4 rescue dogs and 2 rescue cats.  The dogs have been living as part of the family for several years, the cats came as kittens and are a year old.

All of them (cats and dogs)  are castrated, vaccinated, chipped and have European passports. (NOTE: For some reason these photos are showing upside down on ipads and iphones but fine on desktop. I have tried to fix it but can’t so am publishing them anyway, don’t let it put you off!)



PONCHO: 7 year-old mixed breed, found abandoned in freezing weather starving having been cut down from a wire.





Marley needs a home


MARLEY: 5 year-old mixed breed dog found starving. He does not like black dogs and will bite them.





chinhuahua Burtie


BURTIE: 4 year-old Chihuahua, dumped at Sarah’s feet by feral mother who then ran off. Born with only three working legs. Big character. Probably best homed alone as he doesn’t like other dogs but is fine with cats.






SHAKESPEARE: 3 year-old Golden Retriever thrown from a vehicle in the middle of nowhere, had broken ribs and was starving. He had terrible trust issues leading Sarah to believe he was abused. He is now a loyal and loving dog but is not good with children.








PUSHKIN and BUDDHA, one year-old brother and sister cats hand reared from 10 days old when their mother died. Friendly, affectionate, good with dogs, need to be homed together if possible.


CAN YOU HELP? Please contact Sarah on (0039) 342 515 1416

email: saharagriff@hotmail.com.



Little Benton, can you help?

Little Benton, can you help?

I have been contacted by Beth Amos whose friend looks after some properties in Abruzzo and has been looking after a dog abandoned in one of the houses by its owners. This is very urgent. She writes:

I have been made aware of an abandoned puppy  in the Atri area of abruzzo, Italy. He appears to be a few months old is very well behaved and may be a spinone x spaniel type mix. He is a gorgeous dog and needs to be rehomed urgently as the house owners are ‘allergic’ and are already trying to put him in a shelter. If you can help in any way even a foster situation or if you want to adopt him but live in another country I know people who can help advise of cost and facilitate this so please don’t let that put you off. You can contact me on Facebook (Beth amos, abruzzo, Italy) or by email to bethsinitaly@gmail.co.uk or by phone on 075 9577 1007 (+44 759577 1007 if you are not in the UK)

The Cycle of Life and Death

baby alpaca Pomino

The new baby alpaca, Pomino.

On the morning of May 17  a brown rabbit bolted from a group of trees and ran across my friend Judith’s foot before disappearing. The dogs were far away in the opposite direction, so it had nothing to do with them. I told her it was the first time I had ever seen a rabbit in almost ten years of living here, although I had seen about everything else, from porcupine to wild boar. Considering the circumstances, I knew it was some kind of sign. Judith and I returned from our walk to find one of my very pregnant alpacas had given birth while we were out. A quivering white woolly creature, all big eyes and endless wobbly legs was struggling to stand, surrounded by five curious alpacas in a scene that appeared almost biblical in its charm and timelessness.

A few hours later we were in Intensive Care at Arezzo hospital, a place I had got to know all too well over the previous 17 days. My husband Alan lay motionless in bed 10, hooked up to iv’s and tubes, so sedated that he didn’t even know we were there. The doctors had already warned me that they had lost the battle and that it was just a matter of time. I told him about the baby alpaca and the rabbit, chatted on about what we had been doing as usual. It was something I’d resolved to do even though he was unresponsive, talk to him as if he could hear and understand. I told him I’d see him later and kissed him goodbye. We drove back in silence, both trying to take in his dramatic deterioration. At home, surrounded by dogs we had a cup of tea, then checked the baby alpaca. The phone rang. It was the hospital asking us to go straight back. I was astounded by my calmness as my worst nightmare unfolded, I didn’t drive too fast, I didn’t cry. We rang the bell of the dramatically named ‘Reanimazione’ ward to be greeted by the motherly doctor who had been so kind to me. She took my hand. ‘I’m so sorry, Signora.’

On the drive home we both noticed one dead magpie lying by the side of the road – ‘one for sorrow.’ In the evening of that unforgettable day I looked up the symbolic meaning of the rabbit. One interpretation was ‘the cycle of life and death’.  I had had a feeling, a premonition which I barely wanted to acknowledge, that Alan would die on the day the alpaca was born and it had happened as I thought it would.

The second baby was born the next day, but the gods were determined that I should be tested even further. The mother had a retained placenta, which meant an emergency call to the vet, a life or death intervention. My diva Suri alpaca, the very definition of Miss High Maintenance, was struggling to breathe and in shock from the birth and the proximity of strangers and the inability to move or escape. The vet was very concerned, gave her an injection to help her breathe and stayed on to check that she wasn’t going to die. Fortunately, she didn’t, but I had to give her antibiotic injections for the next five days. The universe was determined I should be immersed in medical stuff for some reason.

And although I never wanted to see syringes, tubes, medicines or anything connected with illness ever again, I knew I had to face yet more. My elderly labrador ZsaZsa was diagnosed with leishmaniasis while Alan was in hospital. The treatment (not cure) is two daily injections of Glucantime for 30 days and three tablets of allopurinol daily for a year. I delayed doing anything while Alan was in Intensive Care, but I started the therapy a week ago, crossing off the days on a chart. I cried my eyes out as I gave her the first injection. ‘I don’t want to do this!’ But then I got a grip and it’s getting easier. It’s too early to say if it’s working or not, but I will keep you posted.

It has been a testing time and I’m not sure what it all means. But one thing I am sure about, despite the traumas and the dramas, I couldn’t have got through this without my animals. My friends – particularly the wonderful Judith –  and my family were there at the end, but the animals were there from the beginning, when I was on my own. They alpacas listened gently as I raged and screamed at the unfairness and the horror of it all, the dogs licked my tears away after yet another desperate visit to the hospital, tails wagging as they struggled to understand why they were being left alone for hours and why I was now sitting crying on the floor. They are what kept me going and they are keeping me going now.


More Italians Than Ever Truly Value Their Cats and Dogs

My cats and dogs in Italy

My dogs and cat – Zsazsa, Jimmy and the much-loved Maia

As someone who openly acknowledges my animals are child substitutes, it’s interesting to find out that I’m not alone!

Here in Italy, recent research carried out by AstraRicherche for leading Italian petfood company AgrasDelic has shown that a growing number of Italians consider their cat or dog not just a pet but more like a member of the family.

Sixty eight percent of Italians say they know someone who thinks their four-legged friend is as important as their child or even more so.

President of the petfood company Enrico Finzi says: ‘companion animals have a far greater level of interaction and emotional involvement in people’s daily lives than in the past… The animal gives the human affection and psychological support. It’s a relationship that many people these days grow to rely on and would find it hard to do without.’

There is also growing interest in the health and well-being of Italian cats and dogs, according to the research.

Forty eight percent of owners demand the same high standards of their pet’s food as they do of their own. ‘It’s a basic sign of affection. People want their cat or dog to experience the same happiness and satisfaction as they do from eating good food,’ explains Finzi. ‘At the same time the product must not harm the animal’s health but instead help maintain its psychological and physiological wellbeing.’

Clearly there’s a long way to go until all dogs and cats in Italy are treated with the love and respect they deserve. There are still too many in council pounds or treated badly and abandoned, as I know from all the people who contact me every year via this site having found a starving maltreated animal that no-one seems to be bothered about.

This research demonstrates an increasing level of affection, sensitivity and care towards pet animals in Italy and is a hugely positive sign. The more people who lead by example the better.

Petsitter Available in Italy in 2015

If you are like me, you never take holidays because of your animals. Well this may be the solution!

I have just had an email from a retired couple from Australia who are coming to Italy next year and are available for pet or housesitting. Here is the information:

“We plan to be in Italy Jun-Sep 2015 and would like to offer our services to mind pets/homes during that time. We are Australians and own a cattle farm with chickens and also operate a B&B. We know how to care and provide for guests and animals.We have enjoyed cats, dogs and birds as household pets and know how to care for small and large animals. In our area we help out when neighbours go on vacation by feeding and walking their pets.

 For our B&B, we have received great comments on trip adviser. Both of us are very active in the community and volunteer for various groups and can provide character references and police checks if required.”

Contact:  Margaret & Bruce Hansell

Email: staybandb@gmail.com

Loving Home Needed for Rudy the Rescue Dog

Every day it seems there are more poor dogs looking for homes. Every one of them deserves a chance and I hope that by putting their stories up here someone might see a photo and fall in love. I’ve done it myself, twice, and have never regretted it.

Rudy 3 005The adorable Rudy is in Calabria, and she was lucky enough to be rescued by a lovely lady called Judy.  It is virtually impossible to rehome dogs down there so the Internet is Rudy’s only chance. Judy writes: “Three months ago I rescued an abandoned dog who was being mistreated here, intending to get her back to health, spay her, and when she was healthy and cute again then find a home for her.  Her name is Rudy.  She is now about two years old, weighs 15 pounds.  She is black, mop-haired, smart, loving, good with children.  She is healthy, spayed, a happy little dog.  I have been unable to find a home for her.  The sindaco refuses to send her to the canile as he says I own her.  The canile will not accept her, even if I pay the monthly fee, without the sindaco’s approval.  I cannot just walk away from her in May. 

” She makes friends easily with other dogs as well as people; is best friends immediately unless the other dog or person indicates they don’t want to know her; then she just sits down, or trots away. I have English students who come to the home, and if they allow it she will lie under the table with her head on their sandals or shoes during the lesson. She loves to play — in the summer some of the summer visiting boys would come to the door to see if Rudy could play. When I go to sleep I am sleeping on my left side with my head on the pillow, and sometimes when I wake up Rudy is also sleeping on her left side with her head on the pillow. She hasn’t had much experience with cats, but when we are walking and she sees one she very much wants to chase it, so I don’t think cats would be a good fit.  “

Judy has to go back to the USA in May and is desperate to find a home for this gorgeous dog. She is currently in Camini, in Calabria, the second hill town up from the Ionian Sea.  The nearest town is Riace Superiore, also a hill town; the nearest seaside town is Caulonia, then Roccella, Siderno, etc.  They are about 1.5 hours from Reggio Calabria. Judy’s son-in-law would be willing to drive Rudy and  Judy  to the new owner if you are outside the area.


Phone Judy (English only) :  0964 733 060.  E-mail is:  judycree@gmail.com

For Italian speakers, Judy’s daughter is Sarah Cree, her husband is Franco Tassone, and their number is:  0964 733 056.

Home Needed for 5-Month-Old Border Collie X Pup

Border collie cross at Livorno

Can you give me a home?

We got our own lovely rescue dog Mana’ from this lady and now she is desperate to find a home for another beautiful young pup. Didi is five months old and a small to medium size female Border Collie cross. (Border Collies are number one in the rankings for most intelligent dogs in the world by the way.)

If you can give her a good home, even if you are not in the area, Livorno, then please get in touch as transport can be arranged.

Email Angela: angelasauco@hotmail.it