There are 750 million street dogs worldwide, be it strays or village dogs, roaming around our cities and rural areas, though there is certainly a higher population in some spots versus others. As I rediscovered in my second and most recent trip to Greece, there were a number of dogs freely wandering around and so I decided to document – and meet – as many of the homeless pooches as I could along way.
I caught this sweet boy who appeared to be peacefully sleeping – in this awkward yet adorable position – on the steps at Syntagma Square in Athens, oblivious to the commotion around him.
As I returned through the square a couple of hours later, after wandering through the National Gardens, I caught sight of the same dog, now awake and casting his sad eyes toward the passersby, all of whom (in the time I was there) carried on by him without a glance in his direction.
I sat on the steps above him for a few minutes, taking his photo, and he turned to me. I pulled my camera down away from my face and we looked at each other for a moment, before he sauntered over to me. I outstretched my hand for him to sniff before he sat beside me, allowing me to pet his head and stroke his ears. My hands quickly became blackened with the dirt on his fur, from sleeping on the much-trodden steps and city streets. Locals and tourists continued to walk the steps around us with strange looks at our interaction, but this boy and I stayed in our little moment together, until it was time for me to leave. My heart broke as I gave him a final pet goodbye and quietly wished him a life of health, safety, and happiness.
Another mutt catching a snooze on a small patch of grass at Syntagma Square, while the city people, including a performer on stilts, bustled about in the background.
Seeing this black pooch having a nap on a grassy plot at Syntagma Square made me think of the “black dog syndrome” and wonder if this was reason for it’s apparent homelessness. Black dog syndrome is a phenomenon in which black dogs are discriminated against for their dark fur colour and usually passed over for adoption in favour of lighter-coloured dogs. This discrimination can be number of reasons, including the misguided fear that black dogs are more aggressive than dogs of other coat colours or the superstitious belief that black fur is associated with evil or misfortune (similarly to the superstition surrounding black cats).
The highest volume of street dogs I saw in Greece were located in the Greek island of Lesvos. This adorable pair could be seen on my daily walks through the island’s main city of Mytilini. They were never far apart, often sleeping and cruising the streets at each other’s sides, often talking breaks to wrestle and play on the sidewalks.
“Puppy” – as he was so aptly named – once a stray who quickly became the communal camp dog at Better Days for Moria in Lesvos. Puppy tore around the camp, often following behind the heels of whomever was carrying a handful of cookies or plate full of food, or standing “on guard” (as in the above photo) barking at the passing cars on the nearby road. Puppy added a much needed and welcomed element of joy and happiness around the camp, as well as a sense of pure, unconditional love in the way that only dogs can provide, to both the refugees and the volunteers onsite.
I liked to refer this super sweet girl “Mama” for obvious reasons. She was another stray that lived at the Better Days for Moria camp and could often be found either hanging out in the sunshine on this covered pallet or snoozing on bags within one of the supply tents in the volunteer area of the camp. She would always great with a wagging tail and was happy to receive soft pets and light belly rubs. About a month after my departure from the Better Days camp, I learned through another fellow volunteer that Mama had a litter of pups and as such, the volunteer was searching for organizations and friends willing to assist in the process of getting Mama and her pups cared for and hopefully adopted to loving homes.