Cats peeked from nooks and crannies and, if you were lucky, they came out and rolled on the sidewalk and let you scratch their bellies. Every restaurant seemed to have its resident cat. These furry souls didn’t care that I was a stranger in a strange land. They treated me like all the rest of the humans, making me feel comfortable and accepted.
Yes, I am well aware that most of those wonderful animals were homeless, but that didn’t make them any less cute or any less comforting. Greece has very few animal shelters and, according to the Greek Animal Rescue web site, dogs and cats and donkeys are horribly abused there. But, fortunately, we saw no evidence of this during our brief sojourn. And I would bet that more than a few of those street animals had homes. There are no leash laws and most cat owners let their cats roam outside. The Greeks have a much more laissez faire attitude toward their animal friends that we do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Many animal lovers put out food and water for strays and there are a few, but not nearly enough, spay and neuter programs. Most families are struggling economically and have nothing left over to take the family pet to the vet. In fact, the worst looking cat I saw in Greece was Indy, the much loved, well-fed, mangy tomcat that had adopted Costas, a friend of ours in Athens.
The donkeys that shuttled tourists between Fira, Santorini and the Old Port were gentle, patient, and fun to watch. The were well treated and had free medical and dental care. I don’t even have free medical and dental.
Looking down from the ruins of the Palace of Phaistos on Crete we were treated to a sight that would have been familiar to an ancient Minoan. A goat was leading this line of sheep to a new pasture. There was no human anywhere near them. There didn’t need to be. The goat was in charge.
On the way down from the Acropolis we came upon a turtle plodding toward the edge of the path, which was a sheer drop-off. A man walking toward us took one look at the turtle and screamed in heavily accented English, “Don’t do it! Don’t jump.” Everyone laughed but the turtle. He, of course, had no intention of jumping.
Our Greek animal hosts and hostesses were delightful and showed us glimpses of their country that we would have otherwise missed. And they did it effortlessly, as if by magic.