Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Tales of cats and dogs

We have 15 cats and 3 dogs. Don't pity me. They only need my full care in winter. In the summer the dogs go for breakfast at the nearby hotel where they spend the rest of the day by the pool, entertaining the guests. It is the same with the cats. Most of the cats wander off to the many houses and their summer occupants, who can give them a real treat.

But when the hotels close and all the summer visitors go home, everybody returns to our place. So I cook pans full of pasta, I open huge tins of dog food (they are cheaper than cat food), I drag home heavy bags of dry cat food. We make sure that the female cats get sterilized and I cry my eyes out when cats disappear. Cats and dogs don't live long on this island.

When I feed them in the morning, a hungry pack of cats and dogs are ready and waiting when I come out of the house. A new cat, Ptolemeus, even jumps with all four paws onto my legs, digging his claws into my skin to get more grip, in order to reach the food first. It is a hell of a job to teach him better manners (especially with a big bowl of food in your hands).

I also try to discourage a dog who is obsessed with Homerus Wiggle. This is a young cat, a new member of the family that decided to survive after he got in an accident. He walks on the back of one of his feet, has a hip fracture and a badly healed foot fracture. His tail moves all the time like a divining-rod: tik-tik-tik. The Wildlife Hospital in Agia Paraskevi took him in for 2 weeks observation, but decided that this small survivor had to live with what he got.

They say that cats have 9 lives. Homerus Wiggle has, as far as I know, already used up two. In the morning it works like this at our house: Vrini, the neighbours dog, which also hibernates here, gets so excited when food arrives (or his owner), that he runs up and down like crazy, chasing the cats. The older cats are used to his wild running around and ignore it. Even the new small cat Wittgenstein is not bothered by all this commotion. But poor Homerus Wiggle, who is not that fast a runner, is scared as hell by this outpouring of joy and runs as fast as he can. Which makes all the dogs chase him, so excited to have a quarry.

So a few days ago I came out and saw Vrini barking happily next to Albino who had poor Homerus between his teeth, shaking him violently. I really got angry and took a stick and attacked Albino, who dropped Homerus immediately. Homerus fled as quickly as he could. Albino shot off with his tail between his legs. I got Vrini on the leash.

I would have done this with Albino as well, but Albino really hates to be on the leash. When we put him on a rope once, he stayed stretched at the limit of the rope for a full day. Somebody told me that I should get him used to the idea of a leash. Leash him and then let go of the leash. When I tried this experiment, letting go of the leash, Albino was so afraid that he run away as fast as a greyhound (he is no greyhound, but a kind of Schnautzer) and did not show up for 2 days.

The morning that he had Homerus between his teeth and I thought Homerus had used up all of his nine lives, I had a serious problem. What to do with a dog that is not happy amongst so many cats and regularly gets into fights with them? I seriously thought of sending him to the next world, because where would I find a new home for this dog on an island where it is common sense to leave cats and dogs to make their own life?

The third dog, Rockie, sleeps, eats, dreams, plays and even mounts the cats, as if there is no difference between a cat and a dog. His only problem is that he finishes his dinner as fast as a vacuum cleaner, gives a big burp and wants to continue his dinner at the cats plate. Cats do not eat at such a high speed. So I try to teach Rockie not to finish the cats dinners as well. But I have to stay close, in order to save the cats food.

However, Albino was saved by Homerus Wiggle. The morning after the incident, he came back, carefully and in one piece, wiggling his tail furiously. So I postponed my decision about Albino, but I sternly told him that from now on he is on probation. For now he seems to understand.

I really got upset by what happened. It was a day you were cursing all the animals and asking yourself why you took them in. On Sunday morning, peace seemed to be restored. I gave the cats their food and counted the colours, my way of seeing if everybody is present: 2 big grey ones and 2 small ones, 3 ginger ones and one small ginger, 2 white-grey ones, 1 white with black, 1 black with white, 1 all colours and the 2 cats that live indoors (and get fed indoors). Everybody was there, until I counted 3 grey-whites. Something was wrong. Then I saw a white-ginger cat, a variety of colours we do not have. And then suddenly a large column of unknown cats marched into our field. HELP!

It was the cats from the neighbouring hotel, who are abandoned, since the hotel is closed. I was happy to see that the food was finished, so they did not see that they missed a good dinner. When they didn't get any attention from me (I really tried to ignore them, which was very very hard) they went back to where they came from.

This summer the hotel had 26 cats! And when I asked the manager what he was going to do with them during the winter, he answered: "They will have to look after themselves. The strong ones will survive." Gggggrrrfffffff. Because I know where the cats can survive, but no way will I open a hotel-cat-asylum. Last year I already took their remaining 3 cats. 3 is a reasonable number. But 26?!

It is awful here at this time of year. Everywhere you see cats and dogs looking for food and a new home. I try not to look and not to think. Yesterday I even saw a fox sitting next to 2 cats. The Greeks still have to learn a lot about getting along with domestic animals. And I have to harden up and learn to deal with them. If a dog trainer has some advice for me concerning Albino, I'd be very glad. I have no idea how to deal with dogs, I am more of a cat woman. I'd better not tell you the story of how I ended up with 3 dogs.

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

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