St. John Bosco and the Gray Dog

Folks, I believe you will find this story from St. John Bosco’s life very endearing:

Although Don Bosco had no lack of resourcefulness, he often received much-needed help from an unexpected source.

Don Bosco entitled the last chapter of his Memoirs “A Mysterious Dog: Grigio.” There he relates how a strange gray dog protected him from time to time. The dog came to be known as Grigio, from the Italian word for ‘gray.’ All sorts of attempts have been made to account for this animal, which always seemed to be present whenever Don Bosco needed protection but was subsequently nowhere to be found.

Those who saw it described it as a German shepherd standing about three feet high with a ferocious appearance. The first time Don Bosco’s mother set eyes on it, she cried out in alarm.

In those days the Valdocco was more isolated than it is now, and it was necessary to traverse a wide stretch of rough waste ground dotted with trees and bushes to reach the seminary. Since he had been physically attacked many times, Don Bosco was obliged to go out accompanied. One evening, however, he was returning home alone, and as he was making his way across this open area he began to feel afraid. Suddenly, a large dog bounded to his side, terrifying him even more.

“Yet its attitude was not threatening,” Don Bosco writes. “It was rather like a dog that had recognized its master. We quickly became friends, and it accompanied me as far as the Oratory. That was not the only time that I encountered it. On different occasions it kept me company, sometimes providentially.

“Towards the end of November, 1854, on a sleety night I was returning from the town. In order not to be alone I took the road leading from the Consolata down to the Cottolengo Institute. At one point I noticed that two men were walking a short distance in front of me, matching their pace with mine. I crossed over to the other side to avoid them but they did the same. I then tried to turn back but it was too late. They suddenly wheeled around and were on me in two steps. Without a word they threw some kind of coat over me. I struggled in vain to break loose. One of them then tried to gag me with a scarf. I wanted to shout but I hadn’t the strength.

“At that moment Grigio appeared, growling like a bear; he hurled himself at the first man with his paws at his throat while snarling at the other. They had to let go of me to deal with the dog.

04lolasit” ‘Call off your dog!’ they shouted, almost paralyzed with fear.

” ‘I’m going to,’ I replied, ‘but next time leave strangers alone.’

” ‘Call him off quickly!’ they shouted.

“Grigio went on barking. The two thugs took off as fast as they could, and Grigio accompanied me to the Cottolengo where I stopped to recover for a moment. Then I returned to the seminary, this time well protected. Every evening when I went out alone I always noticed Grigio on one side of the road.”

One evening, Grigio flatly refused to allow Don Bosco to leave the house by lying across the doorway and growling whenever he tried to pass. “If you won’t listen to me, listen to the dog; it has more sense than you,” remarked his mother. A quarter of an hour later a neighbor ran in to say that he had heard of a plot to assault Don Bosco that night.

When attempts to harm him ceased, the dog disappeared and was not seen again, save once. In 1883, Don Bosco arrived late one night to the station at Bordighera accompanied by one of his priests. Finding no one to show him the way, he wandered through the dark, stormy night trying to find the Salesian house. Suddenly, he was welcomed by a bark, as Grigio appeared and led him to the house.

“All sorts of stories have been told about this dog,” remarks Don Bosco, “but I never discovered who its master was. I only know that throughout the many dangers I encountered, this animal protected me providentially.”

In fact, Don Bosco never tried to discover whose dog it was. “What does it matter? What counts is that it was my friend.”

– Source: CatholicFounders.org

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