You might think that this is the story of Louise Badger and Lawrence Kershaw and their move to Italy.

It might seem that it was their decision to look for a house in Tuscany – into which they could move themselves and begin a new chapter in their lives – which took them to Poggiolino, in the foothills of Lucca. But in truth, it is the story of a small, chestnut-haired dog, known as Todo.

Todo was the reason that they put in an offer for the run-down, tired house. Todo was the little character known across the neighbourhood who introduced Louise and Lawrence to their new world – albeit a little sooner than they were expecting, as their plans to move were hardly formulated. Todo it was who proved that such things as loyalty, courage and determination are not reserved simply for humans.

Poggiolino was built by Carol MacAndrew, the first president of the Music Society of Lucca, and when she died, her dog simply stayed put. The house stood empty for two years, with Todo stubbornly refusing all efforts to re-home him.

When Louise and Lawrence viewed the house, his welcome made it seem to them as though they had arrived home. He lived alone outside the house and his coat was matted and worn, but he seemed to radiate friendliness. So it was that Todo – and Signora Teresa, the equally loyal housekeeper – proved hugely instrumental in the pair’s offer for the house being accepted. Both continued after the purchase to help Louise and Lawrence to settle in.

There followed the frustrations of renovating – of re-connecting the telephone and bringing in the internet, of packing up and leaving London, whilst continuing to run their music agency, and of regular travel back and forth from England.

It wasn’t easy; the pressures were huge, but the pleasures grew to be enormous. The locals, from electricians to policemen, and all who knew the previous owner, proved helpful and welcoming – but time and again doors were opened to them because of the small dog, who seemed to smile at everyone.

This is the story of love and devotion and of a precious friendship with an extraordinary dog. Part memoir, part travelogue, part reassurance that moving to another country is possible, this charming and heart-warming story of rescue and good fortune will raise both smiles and tears.

Louise Badger and Lawrence Kershaw were both born in the UK, but Louise spent her childhood in Australia while Lawrence grew up in Liverpool. They met through a shared love of music and were married in 1987. They have run a music agency for over a decade and divide their time between London and a small village near Lucca.

Todo in Tuscany – The Dog at the Villa, Published by Hodder & Stoughton

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