Monday, 1 November 2010


(the house of Andonis)

The Greek Olympos had that many gods they sometimes get into your head. I have tried hard to learn all their names and connections but if you are not careful you make mistakes and mix them up. When writing my last column about quinces I said that the goddess Aphrodite distributed lots of golden apples. However, she only gave away three – to Hippomenes – and although she played a part in story of the apple that (eventually) started the Trojan war, she was not the one who threw it into the crowd of wedding guests. That was Eris, the goddess of strife. So I was very sloppy writing this and I apologise (see my story about Apples from Lesvos).

There are many stories about the man I am going to write about now, but I choose only to pass on what I know to be facts and leave darker stories for what they are.

Everybody who has been to Eftalou, knows this man or at least the place where he lived: close to the Panselinos hotel between the road and the sea there is a complex of shabby structures made out of drift wood where a bent old man lived with dozens of dogs and cats: Andonis. You could only see what lay behind those shacks if you looked at them from the sea. It was a tiny stone house in which this man from Molyvos used to live.

Adonis was born by the sea here in Eftalou where he grew up with his brothers and sisters, together, it’s said, with lots of cats and dogs with which they slept to keep warm in winter.

Andonis married and had children but although his wife had a house in Molyvos, Andonis preferred to live in his little house by the sea and refused to abandon his many cats and dogs.

He was crazy about his animals and whenever he thought somebody might harm them – even if it were an unsuspecting tourist trying to stroke one of his cats – he might suddenly appear, screaming and rushing to save his beloved animal from the hands of a quite innocent animal lover.

If a cat got lost pandemonium broke out and he would run into the garden of the hotel, cursing people because he was sure it had been kidnapped by a tourist. His love for his animals had no limits, neither did the number of strays he took in. Early every morning his wife would come from Molyvos with food for him and all his charges.

Andonis came from a fishing family and he loved going out to sea to catch more food for his animals. Maybe that is how he met the seagull which for years lived at his little jetty, and was always there when he’d been fishing.

Even when big storms blew in the winter, no-one could get him to move into the village. His sons would beg him but he stayed with his animals. In the end it was cancer that made him move out. Two summers ago he started going home to his wife in the evenings, and last winter he no longer stayed at his seaside home with his animals. Although they were still fed by his family, they were in truth abandoned. And this is why they became the terror of the Eftalou boulevard. On the internet they became known as the ‘hellhounds of Eftalou’!

It is a very sad story because the abandoned dogs eventually ate the cats and then ran wild. They still lived on the street but some were not quick enough to jump away when cars sped by. Somebody even put poison down — and so last summer there were only six left.

As they roamed around and their territory expanded, they even came and killed one of my cats and, although I will never forgive the way they tore it to pieces, my heart still bleeds as I hear them barking and struggling to survive without their master.

One week ago the cancer finally took Andonis away and his dogs will never see their master again. It is likely that they will be taken to an animal shelter so that Eftalou will be safe again. Even though they were a real plague these last years, I will miss them, as I do Andonis. We will never see his crooked old back shuffling along the boulevard; we will never hear his shouts when he lost a cat or a dog did something he didn’t like. We will never speak to him when he was sitting at his little house, secretly eyeing the wandering tourists. He would always answer me with an avalanche of Greek words, most of which I never understood — and Andonis loved to talk.

One of his dogs has a new home at my place and I dearly hope that the others find places to live and people to look after them; and that Andonis too has found peace without his animals. Even though his dogs caused us many problems we shall miss this icon of Eftalou. So I am wondering if there are dogs and cats in the timeless fishing grounds where he now is. Goodbye, Andonis, I wish you well.

(with thanks to Tony Barrell)

@ Smitaki 2010

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