March 27, 2011

0 Greece: Dogs of the Unknown Soldier

 Greece is covered in stray dogs and cats.  There will be a more varied post on this later.  I say dogs first, because, in Athens at least, the dogs are so much more visible.  There are definite territories, and over our three days we even recognized certain dogs in certain areas and I kept my eye out for each when we'd enter their zone.  One area rife with these dogs was Parliament/Syntagma Square.  Since we watched the guards on Friday the 25th and returned for the more elaborate changing of the guards on Sunday the 27th, we got to observe the dogs of Parliament twice.

This soldier was a sort of guard in charge of the soldiers standing for the unknown soldier.  He monitored the crowd, maintaining order, as well as checking the Evzones' uniforms- smoothing pleats, fixing crooked tassels, etc.  The few times he did shoo the dogs away from an area (although they seemed to know their boundaries) he did so briskly but kindly- not pushing or yelling, but with firm voice and hand gesture.  This was representative of the common Greek attitude towards the dogs- while no one showed deep affection, you'd notice shop and stall owners tossing dog biscuits to their area's canine resident, and serving trays of water were tucked in side doorways in the shade.  When we were out later in the evening I even saw a couple of dogs (in different areas) laying on large floor mats on the sidewalk.  These mats weren't out the next day during the busy time, so I think they are specifically set out for the dogs.

I really like how the dog seems to mimic the soldier's movements in these pictures.  In the photo above this one, they're both "at ease."  Here, they're beginning to move around.

Now walking around a bit.

Back at ease.  

The dogs were perfectly calm through traffic, crowds of people, crowds of pigeons- such a difference from Sloan and Max, who jump on any opportunity to bark at commotion! 

The dogs (this one is same as the previous image) were all incredibly large.  Not quite giant-size (St. Bernard, English Mastiff), but I'd guess most were 80-130 lbs, and burly.  While this does make sense in a survival of the fittest scheme, it just adds to my astonishment at the nonchalant attitude Greeks of all ages/sizes held towards them.  Very different from the many people who've reacted to Max and Sloan's sizes when we're out (and I maintain, they're not that big!!)
This was the military band that led the Evzones in marching up for the ceremonial changing of the guard.  Notice the dog standing to the right of the lead man...

There are actually two dogs. One is the dog from the earlier photos with the soldier- I'll call her "Parliament Dog." The other walked up with the parade- "Parade Dog."

Parliament Dog followed the band up to the platform...

while Parade Dog stayed behind to inspect his Evzones.

This black and white dog came over from Syntagma Square, across the street.  He was a little more rambunctious than the others, barking when people were too noisy for his liking.  I commented to Paul that the police who were constantly asking the swelling crowd to stay to the side and move back would do well to train these dogs in crowd control.

The big black dog from the earlier photos still relaxed, as if parades going by during your late morning nap is par for the course.

Parliament Dog is resting in the back.  She seemed to let Parade Dog take charge over for the ceremonial changing of the guards.

And here Parliament Dog is trotting the parade away.  She did return once they were a bit further down the street.  After all, she can't leave her post- who'd be in charge then?!?!

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