Sunday, 24 March 2013

My four-legged friend

My name is Bonnie and I live in Greece.

Would you believe me if I said I can quite easily reconcile having a dog here in Greece and also have once said, and meant, "I'm not having another dog".

If you are a dog owner (do we ever really own dogs?) I suspect you would believe it. Consequently, the "another dog" I said I'd never have, Bonnie, a black Labrador, came with us from the UK to Greece.

I have no difficulty in saying, and believing, that this is actually a good thing. I like dogs, well, most of them, but they are a commitment that should not be undertaken lightly. Anyway, enough of the "A dog is for life, not just for Christmas" spiel, even if it is true.

There was no way I was going to see Bonnie packed in to a crate and then stuck in the hold of a flight from the UK to Greece. As a result, we drove from Devon to Kent, went through the Channel Tunnel and then down through France to Italy. There we boarded a ferry which went down the Adriatic and landed us in Greece. We crossed the Greek mainland to get another ferry from the port of Volos to the island of Skopelos, where we live.

The journey took us about a week and in all that time Bonnie was an exemplary passenger on ferries and in the car. Mind you she did have more room in the car than either my ever-loving or I did.

Bonnie trying not to look glum about another stint in the car.
Zonked out by the heat.
And so now Bonnie lives in Greece, where, as I have already said, she is getting to grips with the language and the intense summer heat. But even if she learns to say "ghav" rather than "woof" I doubt she will ever be regarded as a proper Greek dog. On this island at least, dogs seem to have two main purposes. Some are used for hunting - these mainly resemble pointers - while the majority seem to be used as general purpose intruder alarms. These "alarm" dogs come in all shapes and sizes and always live outside, with a fair few of them chained up.

Bonnie with Ektor, the type of dog used for hunting.
Beware of the dog.

This outdoor life could have become a sticking point with the landlord of the house we rent. He was fine with us having a dog, but when we said Bonnie was a a pampered British Labrador used to having a roof over her head he looked slightly puzzled to say the least. We assured him she was fully house-trained and her being pampered did not extend to being allowed on the furniture. Apart from during thunderstorms, which Bonnie really, really hates, she sleeps on her bed in the kitchen at night. During thunderstorms she stays as close to us as she can manage and will often sleep as much under our low bed as she can manage. He agreed it would be all right for Bonnie to live indoors and now she and he are firm friends.
Bonnie stays under the kitchen table during a storm.
So is that all OK then? Well, only up to a point because the simple truth is that quite a few Greek people are quite scared of large-ish dogs, particularly if those dogs are barking at them. And especially, it seems, if those dogs are black. I have seen people shy away from Bonnie when I have been walking her on the lead and she hasn't even uttered a peep, or a "ghav". One woman who came on to our land to gather horta (wild greens) ran off when Bonnie had only barked at her from some distance away. I should add that there are some Greek people who are very pleased to identify Bonnie as a Labrador and make a fuss of her.

You might think I'm exaggerating the scary black dog factor, but I'm not. One morning I was driving back home having walked Bonnie in some woods. A few miles out of town I spotted a Greek couple I know who were walking along the road towards town. They weren't dressed for walking, they were dressed like people whose car won't start or has broken down. Good, I thought, my chance to do a good deed. I pulled up next to them and offered a lift. Everyone was all smiles and the woman had just stuck her head in my car to get in to the back when Bonnie's head popped up between the seats. The woman recoiled in horror and that was the end of my good deed. No amount of reassurance by me would persuade the couple that Bonnie was merely interested in her new travelling companions and so they continued their long walk to town.
And relax.
So Bonnie does live up to being man's, and woman's, best friend, but be that as it may, believe me this time when I say: "I am NOT having another dog." Probably.
My friend Bonnie, she's the one on the left.


  1. Interesting to read about your dog Mark - have often wondered how my lurcher would adapt to a hotter place. Coming to Greece next month by the way - down to Poros and beyond...

    1. Like most Labs, Bonnie has a thick coat which is too thick in the summer when she puffs and pants a lot. We did buy a paddling pool for her, but she never really took to it. You're not meant to take your dog on the beach during tourist season, but sometimes I go somewhere secluded with her early in the morning so she can have a dip. As for Poros, I've never been. It looks nice, though. Work or pleasure? (Or both?)


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