Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Athens is dog heaven

"Athens is dirty." "Athens is chaotic." " Athens is ugly."

I had pretty low expectations for Athens. The main piece of advice I got from people who have visited before me was to,"see the Acropolis and get the heck out of the place", but Athens is stuffed with amazing food and historical sights and modern points of interest that extend way beyond the Acropolis. Offering a sample of the house wine to go with your gyro or an extra container of rice pudding to go with your profiterole, the Athenian people are extremely generous with their hospitality. Impressively, this generosity extends all the way down to their four-legged friends and it goes far beyond the occasional table scrap. I've been to my share of countries whose urban centres teem with packs of mangy dogs, but kudos to the Athenians for really figuring it out.

It was the Olympics that spurred Athens into addressing their stray dog population. The impressive thing is that the strays were not rounded up and shot in a back alley or lethally injected behind closed doors, they were and still are taken in and spayed or neutered and then returned to the same place in the street with a shiny new collar and a dog license. How civilized! Today you see a backdrop of healthy, well fed dogs, that are clearly an accepted piece of the cross patch of fabric that makes up modern day Athens. It adds some humane character to what many see as just dirty chaos with an acropolis on top.

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