“I don’t know what my animals taught me. What I know for sure is that I’m happy when we’re together, completely at ease with myself and the world.” And there’s quite a few animals living in Mercedes’ Masseria home in Frassanito, Salento! Horses, cats, a cow, chicken, rabbits and many more. To make other people happy as well, she opened Masseria Prosperi right next to hers: a small and refine boutique hotel, surrounded by nature. Her dogs, Frida, Francesco, Beba, Fiocco and Sissy always by her side
If anyone knows what it means having a dog it’s You.
Well yes, we’e got quite a few of them in the house, really! We always had, it’s five of them now. And it’s difficult to talk about one without thinking of all the others. All my dogs are very special, very special to me. Each one of them has a different character, just like people do. There’s Fiocco, a black and white, curly mixed breed which I took from a kennel, ten years old. Then there’s Francesco, 15 now, who looks a bit like a big Labrador. I found him years ago on a street, he had been hit by a car, couldn’t move one leg. So I took him, had his leg operated and he has been with us ever since, like a beautiful old soul that’s watching over the family. Sissy, our little princess, is another foundling: She moved in as a baby and she’s supposedly ten years old by now. Beba, the little white one, used to be my Mom’s dog. She had found her on Facebook: Her former master couldn’t keep her for whatever reason, so Mom brought her to her city apartment which was fine – until we found out that she’s a free spirit, needs to be out in the open, go lizzard-hunting and be with other dogs. The last to arrive was Frida, a Bernese Mountain dog which I got from a breeder in Terni. On the 17th of June she’ll be two years old. Funny enough, but she’s actually the only dog whose real age I know for sure.
How would you describe the relationship with your dogs?
Frida, the latest arrival, is wonderful in her way of always being cheerful, playful, but at the same time also polite and calm. I like the fact that she is very sociable and that she likes children. She may be a bit spoilt and she actually enjoys her role as “the little one” who gets all the attention. But she is still a dog with a very strong character. Her presence is felt and I appreciate that. Generally speaking we have an excellent relationship, this goes for all of them. I am the leader of the pack, their Mom. They respect and love me, and I respect and love them. I’m often sorry that I can’t dedicate them more time which I’d love to do. But still: Wherever I go they follow me. When I leave the farm, they’d be sitting next to the entrance waiting for me. I’m never far from where they are and the other way round.
Frida the youngest seems to play an extra role…
She does. A very important one. She was actually the first puppy we ever had in the house while my children were there. All the other dogs arrived as “adults” more or less. Frida grew up with us, at an age when my girls, Emma and Nina, were old enough to interact with her actively and responsibly. That makes a big difference. What’s important to me, too, is that all the dogs, but Frida in particular, are loved by the guests of the farm. When there are children around, Frida will certainly be right in the middle, pampered by everyone!
Who would Frida be if she were a person?
She would be the person I would like to be.
What do you love your dogs for the most?
I love them because they give me joy and unconditional love. I love them because they create good mood wherever they are. I love them because they’re waiting for me and welcoming me. I love them because they are there for me when I need them. Because they listen to me and because they want to spend time with me. What they taught me? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m happy when I’m with them. When I talk to them. When I touch them. When I watch them. But that goes for all of my animals, not just the dogs.
When she’s not walking her dogs or riding her horses, Mercedes and her family are running two masseria hotels in Salento, Puglia:
Masseria Prosperi (www.masseriaprosperi.com) and Masseria Montelauro (www.masseriamontelauro.com).
Photos: Katja Brinkmann