Amico in Vasto



Amico in Vasto, Italy
13 November 1996
Watercolor on cold press Lana paper

I headed north up the beach till I stopped and sat down with my back against a big overturned row boat. There I made the Vasto Marina painting I posted last week. When I finished, I continued in the same direction to the end of the beach.

A large, white dog came down from the rocks and over to greet me at about the same time a man brought a dog on a leash towards me from another direction. As soon as the white dog had sniffed and licked my hand, he turned, bared his teeth at the leashed dog and both started barking and making threatening noises. Oh, Great!, I thought. Trapped on an Italian beach in the middle of a dog fight. The leashed dog was led away by his laughing master. The white dog came to my side and would not leave no matter what.

I did not want to get involved with another animal and when we got back to the overturned rowboat, I sat down. The dog lay down beside me and went to sleep. After a few minutes, I stood up very quietly and headed back towards the apartment. A few hundred yards up the beach I looked back just in time to see him emerge from the other side of the row boat looking in every direction. He spotted me and high tailed it in my direction. Except for the time I spent in the apartment, he did not leave my side for the next three days. I tried to bring him up at night but he was a confirmed outside dog and at night lay down in front of the apartment entrance where he greeted me first thing each morning.

I surrendered to his companionship because, after all, I really needed it. He was my friend, so I named him Amico. Language was not a problem. Eventually, I learned that he was a Pastore Abruzzese, a regional dog bred from ancient lineage specifically to guard sheep in the Abruzzi mountains. Naturally, I became quite attached and was heartbroken to leave him at the Marina beach when it was time for me to go up and perform in Vasto. Our little tryst inspired a song.

Listen to the song


Amico in Vasto
(Pastore Abruzzese)

I freaked out in Verona
boarded the south bound train
my head was split with anger
and my heart was dulled with pain

Some fool had to leave a message
that my best friend ran away
the home I thought was anchored
floated off to yesterday

Lost and alone
so far from anything familiar
there was no one I could talk with
to relieve myself

Crazy with grief
the new moon cast everything in darkness
I tossed weightless in the strange air
like an autumn leaf

I arrived on the feast of San Martino
when the grapes turn into wine
it was summer in November
as the sun began to climb

The wind flew dry off the Adriatic
I was beckoned by the blue
I walked down to where the coastline changed
and that's where I met you

You ran to my side
as if you'd been waiting for my arrival
you leaned into my legs
as if you'd come back home

When I looked in your eyes
I could see that your love had found its mission
you were my guardian out of heaven
on a three day loan

Pastore Abruzzese
Amico, my Amico in Vasto

We stood in the waves and got sandy
I painted a picture of you
we climbed the palace steps together
and panted at the view

I bought you bones and cheeses
and I fed you at the fountains
I followed your gaze to the crescent moon
as it rose above the mountains

Steadfast and sure
you gave me the company I needed
and the unconditional love
that asks for nothing in return

I don't know where you came from
but I'm grateful that you found me
you saved a wandering soul
from drowning in the dark

Pastore Abruzzese
Amico, my Amico in Vasto

Where would you go when I left town
who would put food out for you
would you find some new soul you could shepherd
would they love you like I do

On the morning I was leaving
you appeared shampooed and shining
on a rope beside a young boy
who would love you like I do

Steadfast and sure
you gave me the company I needed
and the unconditional love
that asks for nothing in return

I don't know where you came from
but I'm grateful that you found me
you saved a wandering soul
from drowning in the dark

Pastore Abruzzese
Amico, my Amico in Vasto

©1996 Suzanne McDermott/Drexel Road Music (ASCAP/STIM) All Rights Reserved

For everything you might want to know about Pastori Abruzezzi, visit Marco Petrella.

A few years later, I told a bit of this story and sang the song for some nursing home residents in Philadelphia. Afterwards, one of the women grabbed my forearm and asked, "So? Did you bring the young man home with you?"

Also see: Vasto and Vasto Marina.

Every Sunday I post a new painting and story behind the watercolors I made while touring as a singer songwriter. Follow the stories behind the paintings of these serialized posts by working your way up from the bottom.