Wed 1 Jun 2011
Remember Kanellos, the Greek protest dog? That rabble-rousing mutt who seemed to be present at every social demonstration that took place in Athens over the past 2+ years? Well, I happened to be in Athens during a recent honeymoon, and had a fantastic little encounter with a canine who looked suspiciously like him. Allow me to share the tale.
We were just coming back from visiting the Acropolis, on our way to the National Gardens, when we found ourselves standing at a crosswalk in front of a busy, six-lane roadway. From somewhere down the street to our right, we heard the angry barking of a dog. We started to turn towards the direction of the sound, but our attention was immediately redirected to a responding bark emanating just a few feet behind us. There was something unusual about this particular bark. It was hoarse. Lived-in. Wise.
It belonged to a large, golden retriever-and-something mix, who had unbeknownst to us been sleeping in the shadow of the building at our backs. The first dog’s barking had roused him from his slumber, which he took, it seemed, as his cue it was time to go to work.
And go to work he did. He immediately trotted up beside the ten or so people standing at the crosswalk. The U.S. and Canadian tourists among us were easy to identify, as we were the ones who frantically started ordering him not to cross. He ignored us, in the same way a hippo ignores the incessant buzzing of the horseflies that travel on his back. In the dog’s mind, we weren’t protecting him from walking into traffic; he was seeing us safely to the other side.
Sure enough, the signal changed to walk, and our shaggy escort flanked us on our left, pacing us the entire fifty feet or so until we were completely across. Needless to say, we were impressed. But our awe quickly turned to panic when
Kellanos mystery dog turned and walked right back onto the street, the light now having changed with traffic moving straight towards him. Was this proud beast about to meet the most ignoble of ends, right before our horrified eyes?
Nope. Turns out he just wanted to properly position himself for a leaping, threatening chomp. At a city bus. He missed the thing by maybe a foot as it sped by. Maybe he wanted it to slow down?
We collectively exhaled as The Littlest Homer marched safely back onto the sidewalk and started heading up the street. We were trailing about ten feet behind him when he sprung into action again. This time his target was three South Asian gentlemen in their late twenties, two of whom were having great fun scaling a street-side tree. They were venturing out onto a very large branch that hung over the street about ten feet off the ground, and the dog didn’t like it. “Be careful,” he conveyed, by way of a series of very aggressive barks at the lone member of the party standing on the ground. The guy was (rightfully) terrified as the dog inched towards him, and you could practically see him trying to decide whether he should flee up the tree for safety. If the look on his face was any indication, he decided to shit his pants instead. Message delivered, the dog continued on his way up the sidewalk, but not before quickly darting on the street again to take a harmless chomp at a passing motorcyclist (the motorcyclist calmly kicked at the dog in stride – apparently the two had a history). Eventually, he quit the sidewalk, veering off out of sight into some nearby bushes…
…whereupon he emerged ten seconds later, carrying a man’s wallet in his mouth.
I’m still not sure how he knew the wallet was in there – did he put it there himself, or see it get tossed? Or did he just have some sort of preternatural sense for when there was some wrong in a given area that needed to be righted? Either way, he started dragging the open wallet up the street, the cheap plastic card holders (presumably full of membership cards to various bath houses) flapping in the wind. At one point a guy bent down to try and take it from him. The dog jerked his head away violently, and you got the feeling if his mouth wasn’t full he would have taken a hand off for his troubles. Instead, he dragged that wallet all the way to the entrance of the Gardens where, I kid you not, he dropped it in front of the tourist information booth. A man who had seen the dog coming picked up the wallet and turned it in. Fido was three for three.
All of the above happened in the span of five minutes. The next we saw, an impressed tourist was giving the dog pieces of his granola bar. Ever the gregarious leader, he started barking to signal his pals that he had found a soft touch, and a few of them came a-runnin’. We continued into the Gardens, did our little tour, and exited half an hour later to find the dog sleeping peacefully under a nearby bench, having punched out after a shift honourably worked.
Now look – I know the odds that this amazing dog was Kenallos are unlikely. Impossible even. With so many untagged street dogs roaming the streets of Greece, you’re bound to run into dozens of them who are street-smart and who see their neighbourhoods as turf they must police. But I like to think that, with no austerity protests going on in Athens (that day – they’re back at it again), this was Kenallos. He was just biding his time, doing menial tasks to try and keep his skills sharp, like when Wolfgang Puck goes on a cruise and starts getting creative at the buffet salad bar.
We befriended another couple on our honeymoon who managed to take a picture of the dog, and they’ve offered to send it to us. But I’m not so sure I want to see it. Not because I’m not curious and don’t want to compare. But because I have a feeling that Kenallos would somehow know I needed proof it was him. And he would be disappointed in me. Because I didn’t just believe.
Long may you run, protest dog. Just make sure to look both ways.