Guard Dog in Greece 2016 October
I have a soft spot for animals. Always have had. As a child I loved the book all creatures great and small. I avidly read all of Lawrence Durrell’s books, and Christmas was usually perfect as long as it featured an atlas of deep sea creatures or poisonous amphibians. When I went out to play I would spend time reassembling the rat skeletons I had dug up in the garden, I watched tadpoles grow, and once, by mistake, while trying to clean out the fish bowl (no aquariums for me) I put my pet fish into a flower vase, which I thought contained water, but which in fact contained diluted bleach… I put them straight back into water, but it was too late. I cried for hours. Other stories include the mouse and tetanus shot: as a toddler I upended a flower-pot in a flower shop discovering a mouse underneath, it bit me, I had to have a tetanus shot. One of many to come.
Over the years, once I tired of fish and rat skeletons I talked my long-suffering parents, who are indifferent to most animals, with the exception of cats, and who thus were not well-equipped to tolerate a menage at home, into the following pets:
They have very large testicles do gerbils. I remember, because one got himself caught (by the balls…) in some string I had used to fix a climbing stick in his cage. His testicles turned blue, I massaged them to get the blood circulation going again. He peed on me. Ah well. I also learned that boy gerbils don’t like each other much. This was useful knowledge, because when one of the boys got out, I would just let the other go and follow him round the basement until I heard him chattering loudly at which point I knew where his rival was.
She was lovely. A French “Widder” rabbit, cannot find the english term for it. Beautiful with floppy ears. Weighing in at around 6 kgs. She lived in a hutch outside. She would sometime get out at night and run around in the garden, and then in the morning she would come hopping through the grass to say hello. She seemed to enjoy herself so much and she wasn’t going anywhere, that I thought, why not leave her outside. She is so big, I didn’t think the cats would attack her. I was right, but one night there was this heart-breaking scream. I ran out. But. Rabbits don’t survive weasels. I cried.
These are the only animals I think my parents got of their own volition when we were small. I cannot remember much about these pets.
A fair few over the years. Cats are pretty self-sufficient. But each cat is different.I’ve had cuddly cats, and independent cats. I find them fascinating.
This was a single challenge from the beginning to the end. The cute puppy I talked my parents into was our first and last dog. As said we weren’t an animal focused household. Our sweet chocolate dalmatian came from a breeder who used the same dog to sire a litter, and then used a dam from that litter to sire more puppies. Consequently our dog’s sire and grandsire, were the same dog..Of the 11 dogs in the litter, 9 were returned to the breeder. We kept ours. However, she was a very neurotic animal. To be fair I didn’t pick the breed, I would have wanted a Rhodesian Ridgeback or perhaps a Leonberger. Who knows how that would have turned out. Looking back a corgi, a cocker spaniel or something else in that range would have made a better choice for young children and non-dog-loving parents.
It took me years and years of talking my parents into this. She was lovely. An Anglo-Arab, but she was much too young when I got her, merely a baby.
The ones that got away
Before you feel sorry for my parents, there are some animals I tried to convince them to take in, to no avail:
A corn snake, a Muscovy Duck (ever since reading a Penguin special on things to do for each day of the year, where a Muscovy Duck was featured I’ve wanted one). I also suggested chickens, but that was a definite no.
Scars, cuts and tears and animal abuse
In the course of my loving animals, I have been bitten, kicked, scratched and cried a lot. Mainly when the animals died. Old age. Kidney failure. Cars. Or the cat got a bird. Or the poor fish. I have fed farmyard cats chicken stomachs in the South of France, and been bitten, fed farmyard cats in Switzerland and cut myself on the tin, bleeding all over the floor, and been kicked so hard by a young stallion, that was wounded while traveling, that I still have the imprint, the horse is surely long gone. I was lucky too though. I never sustained any significant injuries. Once I was riding a mare in heat when a Friesian stallion got loose and galloped up and mounted her, I got out of the way just in time.
We’ve been adopted by a Greek Cat
Wherever, I have travelled I’ve fed cats in Greece, Turkey, India, Italy, Morocco, pretty much anywhere I have been. Always knowing it’s not a longterm solution. Whenever I have been tempted to bring an animal home my sensible holiday companions have talked me out of it. Until recently, when I met Isto. He’s the ginger tom in the photo below:
We met Isto on holiday in Greece. He sat outside our apartment every morning, patiently greeting us when we came out. And every evening when we got back from dinner, there he was. As soon as we got out of the car he would be up stretching and chirping at us in welcome. During 2 weeks Isto would not stray far from our apartment. He would be sitting outside the door at all hours of the day, only moving to lie in the shade when the sun was hottest. He is a small cat,ginger with spots, and despite his size he is very heavy as he is so muscular. He strongly resembles an Egyptian Mau, doesn’t miau, but does make lots of odd chirping noises, like the Maus reportedly do. However, the Egyptian Mau doesnt’ come in ginger. Isto purrs like a steam engine. After a few days Isto brought Agnes with him, a small bicolour female cat. We started feeding them. One morning Isto was inside the apartment asleep on a chair. He’d found his way past the mosquito net. His persistence paid off.
Isto in Greece
He now owns some humans and a passport, as well as his own food bowls and a cat litter tray. He has laid claim to an armchair, and spends about 18 hours a day asleep.After years of being a stray he absolutely refuses to leave the house, expending as little energy as possible to get from the chair to the food to the loo and back. It is of course very cold outside. He would eat all day if he could…..This is a challenge.
Isto in Switzerland in his armchair
Sadly, we had to leave Agnes behind, I left a lot of food for her, and asked the owner of the apartment building to keep an eye out for her. She followed us to the car when we took Isto to the vet in his pet carrier. According to various UK newspapers cats in Greece are often poisoned before Easter, to clear up the streets, or after the tourists have gone. A lovely English couple I met, Elaine and Bohdan, are doing all they can to catch, neuter and release strays in Greece. They also re-home them. If, say, sweet Agnes catches your fancy, Elaine and Bohdan at Ermioni Info could get her spayed, sorted and shipped to you…And the cost is not terribly either. I’m just saying. Agnes, has a very sweet disposition and adorable green eyes. And I would feel so much better if she were having the time of her life somewhere chilly with a fire than outside now that the winter is coming in Greece, the tourists are going home and the food will become scarce.