POSITION: 36°26’55″N 28°13’36″E
Kicking Marlon off the boat wasn’t a decision Carol took lightly. She had to overcome the objections of not only Marlon, but the captain and the entire staff of our Italian marina. After three years, Marlon had become part of the fabric of daily life on board. Quite literally. His fur filled every nook and cranny of Aleta inaccessible to daily cleaning. But the logistics of traveling with a dog are complex – and expensive.
In most (unenlightened) countries, bringing in a dog requires more paperwork, physical inspections and fees than any human being. The EU solved the problem (mostly) with pet passports. But flying with a dog in Europe on any low-cost airline is nigh on impossible, and prohibitively expensive on flagged carriers. Leaving Marlon with sitters worked when we found good ones, but with varying cultural resistance to dogs, it became clear our adventuring ambitions wouldn’t be met with our erstwhile first mate and movie star in tow. So, it was off to America and a more stable life on land with Spencer, Tai and Ava.
Of course, that means now whenever we see a dog we have to stop and pet it – with the owner’s permission of course. Like grand(dog)parents we get the satisfaction of engaging without any of the commitment. As we’ve moved east, however, cats are in the majority. Stray cats abound in Greece. They look healthier than the ones we saw in Italy. The reason, we’ve been told, is open dumpsters and the smorgasbord of goodies available 24×7. Italy seals its rubbish bins but must also set traps for rats. Stories of would-be stowaway rodents on Greek islands run through the sailing community. To date we’ve seen nothing squeaky. Perhaps there is a feline quid pro quo at play in the country after all.
Greek kittens are impossibly cute. So attractive that Carol is at risk of releasing her inner crazy cat lady. We came within a whisker’s breadth of adopting a particularly affectionate cat on Ithaka (the one with the smutty nose in the photos below). The next day, and the day after, armed with a large bag of Friskies, Carol went back in search of the little one with the black nose. Its entire family came out for feeding, but thankfully there was no sign of the bold little puss that had jumped in her arms the day before.
Given her long history of adopting pets, Carol’s belief is ‘you [and the pet] know when it’s right’. Which is as well. On our recent tour of Rhodes we stayed for a night at the Karmik Concept Pension. Its owner, Joanne, is a dog lover. She’s got three of her own. Two small Jack Russells, mother (17), her daughter Penny (12), and Lily, a four-year-old adopted island dog with the softest white coat you can imagine.
About two weeks ago while out walking her pack, Joanne fell over a box of new-born puppies abandoned on a patch of waste ground. Six tiny black pups simply thrown away. Well, she couldn’t just leave them there, could she? Anticipating the inevitable, crows had slowly begun circling and even pecking at the helpless little things. So, she brought them home and called the vet, who on examination declared they would get ‘big’. Then she bought a mess of puppy formula and has been hand feeding them ever since.
Of course, Carol on hearing this desperately wanted to help and excitedly dived in. The mewling little beasts drew hard on the rubber teats, downing their milk as fast as they could. The moment feeding was done and burping over, one promptly fell asleep snuggled in the crook of Carol’s arm. Cute as all that was, the prospect of bringing an untrained pup onto Aleta was too much to consider. Thus, however happy the interlude made Carol feel, it wasn’t going to end in an adoption. “I didn’t feel it. It didn’t feel ‘right’”, she said later.
Ol’ One Eye
Along the quay in Mandraki Harbour live a posse of cats, a couple of whom took a liking to Aleta. The first I shooed off unceremoniously. The second, Ol’ One Eye, introduced herself at the top of the companionway and asked politely if she could come in. We said no, but we are happy to feed you on shore. Spreading the cat food on the ground (we still have several pounds of it) attracted a half dozen others and soon they were happily munching away. Satisfied, One Eye moved off to do cat things. We’ll probably see her again now she knows were the food is. Still, as bold and demure as she is, she isn’t the one.
On the other hand, had little Smuttynose turned up for her feeding that day on Ithaka, I’m fairly certain we’d have a ship’s cat and with it lots of flying fur and possibly fleas. I’m confident, though, we’d never have to worry about rats.