“Dja skilos?” (for the dog), I ask the butcher’s wife in my best Greek. “Aaah, kokkalla …” she replies enthusiastically and turns around. I’m curious what she will come back with. Then I see her open the waste bin next to the butcher table and fill a plastic bag. When I inspect the contents, I look into six large, questioning eyes of three skinned heads of lamb and some other offal. No paying necessary. I thank her kindly. Our dogs are having another feast tonight.
In this case ‘our dogs’ means four of them, because I drove to Arta with our German neighbor Dagmar. Dagmar and Harald live on a catamaran and are located in the outer harbor next to the red harbor light. Initially, they’ve got their eye on two of the stray dogs that roam Koronisia. A large male and its small but fast growing female pup. They feed them and fantasize about adopting the two. Until that day just before Christmas. Dagmar and Harald take them for a long walk when suddenly fate strikes. At one of the houses of the fish farm, the puppy wanders of to investigate. There is always a lot of waste there. Often also edible. Then suddenly two shots sound. First one far, then one close. A fisherman walks with his rifle from behind the house to his car. He smiles. The puppy lies dead behind the house.
Not long ago, a law was passed in Greece imposing severe penalties on the mistreatment and killing of animals. Yet it is still quite normal for some of the many street dogs and street cats to be poisoned or, as in this case, shot. Usually this happens in winter. There are no tourists and most of the tavernas are closed. The street animals are left without food and then cause more nuisance with their hungry stomachs. In addition, the young female dogs often have a litter of new mutts before they reach maturity, so it’s probably no coincidence that they are the first to die a premature death.
Dagmar and Harald are shocked, angry and sad, but turn their emotions into something positive. They contact the shelter in Arta and through them come into contact with a Greek family where they can pick up a puppy. They actually wanted to ask some questions about this to the English-speaking son of the house, but he is not present upon their arrival. The only Greek-speaking mother of the house is waiting for them on the road in the pouring rain with the puppy in her arms. And so they leave on New Year’s Eve with their puppy, Jason, to their boat. The question now is what will happen with the big dog later on. He is too fond of his free life and does not want to get on their boat or walk on a leash.
Allthough a Greek doglife may not be without dangers, it is often a free life. Many dogs, including those with an owner, spend most of the time wandering around on the street. And the real stray dogs without owners often have their addresses where they get something to eat. It is still good practice here not to throw away food and to feed leftovers to dogs, cats or, if necessary, the fish. And there is also plenty of edible outside here for our always crazy hungry Sammie: a dead crab, the intestines of an eaten coypu, gnawing on a piece of skull or the horn of a sheep. It’s all possible here. The dry dogfood that someone has deposited at the port remains untouched. Only Sammie wants it, but he doesn’t get it.
‘What a dog’s life!’ We say in the Netherlands when we mean that someone has a miserable life. And when it comes to a Greek dog’s life, everyone initially thinks about the dark sides, such as pathetic barrel dogs and skinny, hungry mutts. But a Greek dog’s life also has completely different sides. Of course, it is not without risks, but it is free and full of play and adventure. A bit like our new life on the boat. Really a dog’s life, but this Greek dog’s life is not that bad at all…