In October 1971 the Italian Government made one of its ritual announcements that it had raised enough money to save Venice, by protecting it from pollution and installing a new sewage system. Simultaneously, John Sparrow was also turning his attention to the plight of the stricken city. In one of his major letters to the Times, the then Warden of All Souls addressed the urgent question of Venetian dogshit. He noted with regret the inadequacy of the local decree which insisted that dogs 'when out of doors ... shall be muzzled - but (alas!) at one end only'. The enforced wearing of a second, matching retro-muzzle was clearly one solution, but even this, the Warden implied, might not be the end of the matter. He balefully remarked on the way the dogs 'fight and philander in no very decorous manner up and down the calli in every quarter of the town ... Even the most pacific and the least libidinous cannot but contribute their quota of defilement that makes even the shortest of walks in Venice today a hazardous and unsavoury experience.' Sparrow, unlike the Rome government, declined to trifle with a mere new sewage system for the offending canines; nor, as he might have done, did he argue for the development of an Integrated Triple Muzzle. His recommendation was absolute: 'a very simple legislative measure, providing for the absolute exclusion from Venice of the dog ... to put out of action once and for all this disgusting engine of pollution'.
LRB 17 September 1981 | PDF Download