Stepano sat down, and reached his rear paw forward to scratch behind his ear. There was a time, in his younger, puppier years, when he would have trusted a human to do so. Not now; not since his recent owner had assumed the fullest sense of that word, owner. A weekly beating for some imagined slight, and eventually leaving Stepano to sit in the yard, alone, waiting. A lot of hard work pushing things to the wall, and one particularly lucky jump, meant escape before starvation.
Hiding out on the boat hadn’t been easy, either. He ducked the crew, but food wasn’t plentiful. He had eaten enough to survive the week-long trip, but even with the rats he caught, he was hungry when he stepped off in Venice. A friendly waiter slipped him a few scraps, but one nice person wasn’t enough for him to trust them all again. Ears must be self-scratched.
He righted himself, relieved, and looked over at his little plant. Three days after finding the small vine, he had it secured a small corner for it; it received plenty of sun, had a nice pile of dirt, and Stepano could bring it water from the canals when necessary. Not good-tasting water, but water nonetheless. His little garden could grow in peace, protected by Stepano, and maybe Stepano could grow in peace, protected by his out of the way corner. He could hope, at least.