Monday, 14 May 2007

A Dog's Life

A while ago I read a book by the American writer Ted Kerasote: 'Merle's Door'. The subtitle is: lessons of a free thinking dog'. The writer found the dog as a pup during one of his canoe trips in America and took it home. He developed a strong relationship with the dog, that ended in an experiment giving the dog as much freedom as he wanted. For example he made a cat door for the dog, so that Merle could come and go inside the house whenever it suited him. It is a moving book full of wisdom, philosophy and psychology about dog behaviour.

I am no specialist with dogs and I never tried animal psychology. But I can talk about letting dogs live in freedom. Our dogs, Albino, Whisky and Rocky have as much freedom as Ted Kerasote's dog. For example I never chose the dogs, they arrived one day at the house, acting like they were really pathetic dogs and wanting food. And then they thought: "Not a bad house, I'd better stay". Here I must say that as with the cats, nobody is allowed inside the house. But we do not let them freeze. When winter arrives we make dog and cat houses on our terrace, in order to protect all cats and dogs from the cold winds and the rains.

In winter nothing happens here in Eftalou. A few walkers, a jogger and some cars are the few users of the Eftalou Boulevard. So the dogs hang around the house, play with each other and wait until you take a walk, as if they did not stretch their legs the whole day long.

Coming out of the house three weeks ago, a bunch of 20 cats and 3 dogs awaited you. They all wanted attention. Now that the season has started, it is perfectly silent outside. Tourists are a group of people our dogs and cats think are irresistible. People having a holiday have more time for them, and probably also nicer food. So we are soon forgotten, each day the dogs go out and most of the cats have disappeared to where they came from: the hotel.

The first summer Albino came to Eftalou as a pup he spent at the hotel. Just like the past 2 summers, he now goes to the hotel where he socialises with the tourists and the hotel dog, who are hanging around the pool, and even more important, around the cafetaria. In between he sometimes comes home for a quick check to see if we might be up to something interesting. But when he sees us working in the garden or at the computer he soon leaves. You see him thinking with his bright brown eyes: I have better things to do!

Whisky, the dog that walked alone from Plomari to our house, has other interesting things to do. She thinks she is a tourleader. So she picks up everybody moving on two legs on the Eftalou Boulevard. She walks them to the Hot Springs, returns with other people to the village of Molyvos or makes a tour around different hotels. Whisky is no pool dog, but prefers walking all day long. In the afternoon she comes home for a little siesta. Waking up she waits for her dinner, which is mostly not what she thought she would get. Then she turns her back on me and jumps into her basket, where she can dream about her favorite pastime which next to escorting tourists is hunting foxes, birds and squirrels.

Then we also have Rocky, or, we used to have Rocky. Rocky's playmate Vrini recently moved further into Eftalou. Vrini first used to come back and sleep here, but now that Vrini no longer comes around often, it seems that Rocky has moved in at Vrini's new place.

So you see: not all dogs walking alone on the streets are pitiful animals. Sometimes I really get nervous when I see them standing in the middle of the road, wagging their tails cheerfully. When the tourists appear, the speed on the road increases. In the summer you get these stupid eager beavers thinking that they look good by speeding.

When I see these speed idiots, I think about getting them tied up. I mean getting the dogs on a chain, although I would prefer to tie up these race monsters. However, it is out of the question tying up Albino, because he is badly traumatized by anything that looks like a chain or a rope. As soon as you try to tie him up, he is so scared of losing his freedom that he has already run for miles. He might have been an escaped chain-dog!

And then we have Whisky, who in Plomari used to walk on the lead so easily. With her solo tour Plomari to Eftalou I think she proved sufficiently how well she needs her freedom. You cannot tie her up then, can you? And then there is Rocky. He is the most stubborn dog of all. Even when you tell him seriously that he has to stay home for a day because I have to cut his curls that cling together, he nowadays has disappeared before you can even serve him his breakfast.

We used to have a poodle Stratos who went each morning at six o'clock to a neighbour to do yoga. The woman only had to lay out her mat and Stratos sat on it, looking straight forward, as if he was already deep in a trance.

Last year they used to deposit small pups at the school in Molyvos. Parents do no like to say no to their children or to a small lovely doggie. In this way many a pup found a home, instead of being killed. I only ask myself how many of the children and parents have kept on with the growing pups and how many of the dogs are back on the streets.

Every year the cat and dog populations shrink because of an idiot who scatters poison. Last week it happened again with a few dogs. One victim was even sitting in a garden behind a fence on a chain! Malakkas!

Stray dogs that find a master or a home are really lucky. A luck they know how to keep. Because who doesn't want a life of every day getting served drinks and food and having the whole summer a long holiday by the pool? That is a real dog's life!

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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