Strays of Athens Part II

Festival-Loving London Girl pets a collared stray dog whom we met during our tour.

Andrew Kelleher has been a tour guide for five years in Greece. Before this he lived with his first wife in Africa, and it was there that he founded his tour guide business: Off the Beaten Track. He’s initially from Australia, but his mother was British, and his father Greek, so it seems fitting that he’s now working in Athens. Although he can read, write, and understand Greek perfectly, most Greeks can’t understand his accent, so he’s a perpetual outsider, even though he’s lived here for nearly half a decade. Andrew is accommodating and low-cost: seven euros for a two-hour tour, and he basically tells us whatever we want to know because there’s just two of us: Festival-Loving London Girl and myself—Easily-Distracted American Girl.

Our tour guide Andrew, myself, and Festive London Girl.

Our tour guide starts off with mythology, but we get sick of that quickly (I know most of the mythology because of elementary-school history. I’ve been Artemis since I was 15, after all, in admiration of the goddess’s passion for standing up for girls, women and animals). We move on to the stray cats and dogs in Athens.  Andrew tells us that there’s a local rescue—Nine Lives Greece—that brings the animals in for spay and neuter, and then tags and collars them. Any vet willing to spay an animal gets a tax deduction. His wife works with this group.

The caring cat lady’s house

He takes us to the Plaka area and points out a cement house from the 1780s in chipping-yellow paint, with falling-down shutters, and dozens of potted plants on the slated patio. He says, “A woman lives here and takes in a dozen or so cats.” As he speaks, two fat catsan orange tabby and a calicosit facing the house; they turn their heads to look at us. This is the crazy cat lady’s house. I love it. If taking in strays and showing compassion is “crazy” then maybe we need to reaffirm what our words really mean. Caring shouldn’t be considered insane. Sure, if a person is unable to take care of these animals that’s one thing; but if she can, then why not? Why should that make her crazy? Giving a damn is sane. It’s not giving a damn that’s the problem. That’s sociopathic.

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