Conversations about Stray Dogs

Greek dogs, especially village dogs, are essentially neglected and often tied up by chain to a tree or spike in the ground. They grind the sand into a fine dust in concentric rings around the origin of the chain. They are fed scraps whenever the owners remember and are not thought of if the owners go away for a day or two or even weeks. Fresh water never exists; perhaps an old bucket might hold dirt specked algae ridden liquid for them.

There are also many stray dogs in the village. They are as thin and mangy as the chained up dogs, as hungry, yet they have their freedom. They are abused, kicked at, shot at even; so they are wary of humans. The skulk along the roads, moving into vacant land and bush where ever possible, a mixed pack sometimes. They seem to never fight with each other, having defined territories and aware that the need to survive is more important than ego.

When you walk from Kakouri to Levidi past Agios Nectarios there are few no houses and it is a wild valley compared to the main valley of Tripolis which is cultivated and has wine farms and dilapidated farm out buildings and many more churches. The villagers think you are crazy to walk, when you can drive, and then warn you about the dogs., There is always a story about someone being attacked by dogs and a child almost dying, the parents losing their job because of the stress and medical costs and then getting divorced, or some such catastrophe. The details change but the catastrophe remains. I have seen foxes and rabbits walking back in the late afternoon from Levidi, as darkness rolls off the tall shadows cast by the mountains. No great catastrophe.

When we first went to the village as children, accompanied by my grandmother, dogs were anathema. We were not allowed to feed them, touch them or play with them. She chased them away with her South African “voertsek” and a kick or waved fist. As the years passed, and so did she, my mother started feeding some strays scraps on the corner opposite our house. She had to be careful, because the divorced couple still faced with medical bills and the injured child and their family, or a similar type, would frown on my mother’s actions and spread rumours in the village of four hundred people that my mother wanted the child dead so that’s why she feeds the dogs. The logic amongst those philosophers astounds me sometimes.

As the years went by my mother started buying dog cubes at the supermarket in Tripolis. There were not always supermarkets there, it is a recent phenomenon. And dog cubes arrived even later. About that time my father built the garage with a separate gate to a small vegetable garden, and my mother started feeding her dogs regularly in that space. She was like a Mother Theresa for the dogs.

Even when my father used to go alone to the village, he would emulate her and buy the cubes at the supermarket and feed the dogs in the garden.

My mother feeding her strays

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