Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Acropolis Crew
by Anna Stamatiou

As a Trustee of GAWF/Animal Action who lives in Athens, I have daily first-hand experience of what life on the streets is like for stray dogs in the city centre.

Sotiris, Kessaras, Goofy, Prokopis, Liza and Brave hang out where the buses that empty loads of tourists coming to visit the Acropolis stop.  They guard their territory with passion, and have developed certain behaviours that may be unique to the packs that live at archaeological sites all over Greece.  For instance, they will temporarily adopt and “shepherd” groups of tourists, walking along with them and guarding them from any other dog, and even from passing joggers! Their freewheeling lifestyle has its highs and lows and they definitely add “a certain something” to the experience of taking a walk on Philopappos hill!

Sotiris is the cranky leader of the pack.  Every afternoon he watches out for the ladies that come to feed him and the rest of the crew.  You don’t want to approach him when they are around, as he is likely to snarl and snap.  Prokopis is usually mild mannered – except when he spots my dog, Jelhi, who he has taken a particular dislike to.  Even though I regularly bribe him with a little treat, he is always keen to chase her off his patch, and poor Jelhi watches out for him and gives him as wide a berth as she can.  If he spots her, there is a flurry of large blackness seeing off some rather pathetic, whiteness amid lots of noise, but never any real damage.  Shaggy, grey Goofy used to be a playful pup but now he has become a bit of a loner.  Poor Liza got run over by a car, and for a long time couldn’t put one of her feet to the ground, as it was so badly mashed. 

 Brave is a fringe member of the Crew, as he has adopted the kiosk that stands a little further along the pedestrianised walkway, as his home territory.  Hugely thick-coated and round as a barrel, he doesn’t seem to mind sleeping out in the rain at all.

We often think of strays in Athens as hungry, bony waifs but the Acropolis Crew is very well (over) fed by a self-appointed team of caring, local ladies.  My two dogs have discovered the places where the ladies leave the dried food they bring, and it’s an everyday battle to keep them away from any leftovers.  The Crew knows where there are taps that drip even in the Summer.  So its basic needs are met.

The system breaks down when veterinary care for strays is needed.  Liza’s horrible injury went untreated for days, while elderly Jack, now no longer with us, had the most enormous tumour, the size of a football, under his chin, which no one would take responsibility for.  Local opinion was fiercely divided.  Some people wanted to see him operated on, others felt he should be gently put down, still others felt nature should be allowed to take its course.  In the end he was taken to the vet – far too late – and an operation was carried out.  Jack didn’t survive the strain of it. 

On the upside, all these dogs are free to come and go as they please, but I’m not looking forward to the next time one of them needs treatment for any serious condition.

Please visit www.gawf.org.uk and make a donation to help us save dogs like poor Jack in future.

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