Tear gas? Woof! It's Sausage the Athens riot dog

ATHENS Thu Oct 6, 2011 4:46pm EDT

1 of 3. Riot policemen try to avoid an exploding petrol bomb thrown by protesters during a demonstration in Athens' Syntagma (Constitution) square October 5, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

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ATHENS (Reuters) - There he is, yelping with delight as the youths start hurling chunks of paving stones, barking his admonition at a cordon of cops fending off petrol bombs, sneezing as he scampers through the tear gas.

Meet Sausage the riot dog, an amiable ginger mongrel resident of Syntagma Square in central Athens, who doesn't mind if you show up for a day of mayhem as long as he can join in.

Whenever there's a demonstration, Sausage is there, always taking the side of the protesters and cheerfully lending a sense of comic relief to the occasionally violent proceedings.

It's made him a local celebrity. He's appeared on the front of just about every newspaper in Greece and wagged his tail on TV screens and websites around the world.

On Wednesday when state workers marched against government cuts, Sausage was in his usual spot at the front, egging on the crowd with a hearty "Gav!" (Greek for "Woof!"), tripping up baton-wielding officers as they charged down the steps.

For the record: some people call him Kanellos -- Cinnamon. The Athens municipality, which has known him since 2006 as Dog Number 1842, prefers Loukanikos -- Sausage.

"Loukanikos or Kanellos. These are two of his many names. It's the same individual," said Anna Makri, head of the city's Stray Animal Service. "There's no other Sausage."

As head of the department, Makri was sued once because Sausage bit someone. The case is pending. "He's a loveable dog, but he's a little bit hot-blooded," she says.

Stray dogs in Athens don't look like stray dogs in other big cities. Many, Sausage included, wear collars and tags.

Instead of rounding them up and destroying them, the municipal authorities of Athens pay to feed more than 2,000 of them. They are neutered, given vaccines, identified with microchips and released back onto the street, wearing a tag with a phone number to call if they are in -- or causing -- trouble.

You can see them snoozing in the sunshine by a statue, or loitering with intent in groups of two or three outside a cafe.

"In most European countries, they solve this problem with euthanasia. But Greek culture is against that. Our law is about rehabilitating the dogs," said Makri. "People here take care of them and love them. They are like everyone's dog."

For a time there was talk that the financial crisis -- the same crisis that has prompted the demonstrations that brought Sausage his fame -- would force the city to halt the stray dog program, set up a year before the 2004 Olympics.

The program was indeed interrupted by a reorganization in recent months, but it has resumed, said Deputy Mayor Angelos Antonopoulos, himself a veterinarian. As for its most famous client: "The municipality takes especial care of him because he's so lovable. And he's also a symbol -- a symbol of freedom."

(Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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Comments (6)
Nipsy wrote:
LOL. Even the stray dogs get a free ride in Greece! It must have been good for 30 odd years when EU Aid money was thrown at everybody.

In my travels including Greece I did remember commenting how the dogs look very well looked after as I saw many walking around

Oct 06, 2011 5:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
pyronius wrote:
i love the dogs of athens! when i went there i met quite a few and typically shared my various outings with them as they tagged along. whats odd about them though is that they’re completely friendly and tame… unless you’re homeless, a gypsy, or a backpacker… they cant stand you then. i had one follow me from the top of the acropolis all the way down only to spot a gypsy near the bottom and run off to attack him. in general though they’re really friendly and well taken care of, a model of how cities should treat their strays. its not just the government doing it either, shopkeepers and people living in the city feed them when they walk by or if they seem to want something. they get vaccinated, fixed, fed, and released, just how it should be.

Oct 06, 2011 11:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
GA_Chris wrote:
if only poor people in the US were this well looked after…

Oct 07, 2011 9:06am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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