Last year I went on an 11-night cruise of Italy, Greece and Turkey. One of the many highlights of this amazing trip was our stopover in Santorini, Greece. Almost everyone has seen pictures of Santorini and its famous blue domed churches. In fact, I can think of only a few landscapes more breathtaking in the world. However, we were surprised by another feature of the island as soon as we landed. The dogs.
Being rabid (pardon the pun) animal lovers and the owners of three dogs, we are naturally drawn to animals when we travel. We were surprised though to find many stray dogs on Santorini, namely in the cities of Fira and Oia. I had always heard of the famous cats of the island, but never the dogs. Sure enough though, they were everywhere – seemingly stray. We quickly befriended what seemed to be a young shepherd mix and were sorry to leave him behind. After asking some people, we were told that they were ‘island’ dogs and were taken care of by the people of the island communally.
Well, as it would turn out, that’s only partially true. They are most definitely island dogs, but they certainly aren’t taken care of. Unless the dog is owned by someone, then it is not taken care of and many times is actually abused and sometimes killed. The animals thrive in the summer months, when tourists flock to the islands and feed them and make sure they’re ok. However, as soon as the last vessel laden with camera toting tourists leaves, the dogs are on their own.
What does this mean for the traveler? Not much I’m afraid. We can’t fly in and airlift the dogs out, nor can we make sure they are taken care of year round. And I certainly don’t think people should avoid Santorini, as it truly is a remarkable place. However, this should act as an example to all who travel that not all is what it may seem and certainly not what you are told. When you travel, keep your eyes open and try to see past the shiny veneer of the postcard image.