When my parents built their beautiful self-designed house, they embedded a 4-tile Italian design of a growling dog, in lovely ceramic colors, into the wall next to the stairway.
It wasn’t just a regular stairway – oh no, can’t have that! It was a curved stair, open, with huge, thick wood steps made out of African Ekki wood. Which apparently is a hardwood that’s over 3 times stronger than white oak. They liked that it was naturally resistant to insects, non-porous, and doesn’t rot.
The wall was done in inside-stucco. Not nice to touch – very textured. And stained a light mauvey-violety-grey.
Every time I went up and down those stairs, there he was, baring his sharp teeth at me!
On those tiles was written, CAVE CANEM. Know what that means? Do you know how to pronounce it? It’s pronounced CAH-way CAH-nem, and means Beware the Dog! The V is pronounced as a W because it’s in Latin!
I was sad that when my dad died and my ma sold the house she couldn’t take those tiles with her. I always wonder if the people who bought the house might have either removed them or plastered over them – the dog was much more fierce than mine is.
I like to think that, although that mean-looking dog from my past scared me as a child, it now hovers over me and protects me from All Those Bad Things.
text & image © Angela Treat Lyon 2022
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