Monday, February 20, 2012
About three weeks ago, as I was leaving the house to forage for food in a taverna in one or another of the local villages, I noticed a stray dog greedily eating food that had been put down for the tribe of semi-feral cats that live around the house, earning their meagre keep by serving as deterrent to rodents and reptiles which may otherwise set up home in the old pile of stone and rubble that serves as home. I have the good fortune to live in a paradise - an authentic Garden of Eden, complete with a population of Asps. The following day the dog was still hanging around outside the house, his ribs showing through his skin. I am not really much of a dog person but nor can I watch an animal starve on my doorstep. The dog was fed. There is in Greece a considerable stray dog problem, a problem not apparently recognised by most greeks who have a very different attitude to animals from the generally caring, anthropocentric attitudes of the majority of northern europeans. Having enjoyed our hospitality, ‘Dog’, as I chose to call him, seemed in no hurry to move on. During the first days of his residence he was very jumpy and would not come near me but, two weeks to the day after he arrived, he hesitatingly allowed me to gently stroke his head. He is yet very nervous but less so each day. As it now seems he will be here indefinitely we thought it best that he had a name other than ‘Dog’; ‘Dog’, is now ‘Philo’ (Φιλο being greek for friend).
Philo is third dog we have kept here during the past fourteen years. Topsy was the first. She was a similar breed to Philo. She turned up one hot summer day. She was first spotted early in the day laying in the middle of the track that leads away from the house. As the morning wore on, and heated up, she moved steadily nearer to the house. Eventually Elisabeth took a bucket of water to her which our visitor drank enthusiastically before laying down again. A quick glance at the pads of her feet explained why, in places they had worn through to her flesh; she must have walked for miles.
Topsy stayed for four years during which she hardly left the surrounds of the house. When the car left the house she would follow it to the village where she would wait until it returned when she would follow it back to the house. One day when the car returned from an outing Topsy was not around to follow it home. She had disappeared as enigmatically as she had arrived four years earlier. She is still much missed.
Some years after Topsy. A friend who had taken in a stray dog contacted to ask us if we would be interested in taking the animal off his hands. Our friend already had a pet dog and could not really cope with two. I told him that, under no circumstances did I want another dog. I do not know how it happened but Milly, a white, long-haired english sheepdog type of animal did eventually come to live here. She too stayed for four years dying here of an illness the symptoms of which we had assumed to be pregnancy but obviously were not. By the time we decided to call in a vet Milly, who despite her swollen abdomen had continued to eat and appear normal, was beyond help. Burying her remains was one of the worst and most memorable tasks I have ever had to face.
Tomorrow, Philo will have been here for three weeks. As with Topsy, how and from where they came to find this remote place, a kilometer from the nearest metaled road and what they might have experienced in their pasts are enigmas as impossible to decode as is that of how long Philo might now remain here. He is, I believe, becoming aware he is welcome to stay. If he does he will continue to enjoy the hospitality of the house and the freedom to wander as far and as long as he wishes, through the largely natural, fenceless wilderness around us.