By Juliana Merz
Tommaso, the dog so many people in Brooklyn Heights had come to know and love as “the dog who carries his steak home,” died on Easter Sunday. He was 17 years old. Tommaso lived on a diet of raw meat purchased at Key Food on Montague Street, which he initially ate in front of the grocery store. One day he began to cary his steak home on his own accord in order to devour it in the privacy of his Brooklyn Heights garden.
Tommaso was a Shepherd-Malamute mix with an Italian name because he was from Tuscany. He was found running loose and confused without a collar on a traffic-dense road near Massarosa, Italy. A longtime Brooklyn Heights resident who had been living in nearby Pietrasanta, I saw him and took him in. Worried that someone had lost him, I put signs up everywhere and placed “dog found” announcements on a local radio station. Nobody called to claim Tommaso, and so he had a home with me.
Tomasso was an extraordinary dog in many respects. On one of his first walks with me in his new Italian neighborhood, Tommaso found a kitten under a dumpster and brought her home in his mouth. He cleaned her incessantly — she was clearly happy, purring loudly and then falling into a deep slumber. She was tiny and still looking for mother’s milk, and so kneaded on Tommaso’s belly —which he happily allowed her to do. Her name was Rosie and they became great friends.
In the years that followed we lived an international life. He had an Italian passport with his photo on it. His physical description read: “white with an orange head and flaming black cape.” The Italians can be quite romantic, even if it’s just for a passport.
I moved back to Brooklyn permanently about 6 years ago, and Tommaso lived with me and my husband in Dumbo, until he could no longer make it up the 6 flights of stairs in our no-elevator loft building. Luckily, my parents lived on Willow Place and were crazy about their canine grandson. The 2nd floor of their house was vacant at the time, and I asked if I could rent it and put my painting studio there. This way Tommaso could live on the ground floor with his grandparents. When I would return to her home in DUMBO in the evenings, Tommaso would be with my’ parents and in great company. He would continue his daily trips to Key Food for his steak.