Sunday, 3 March 2013

Dog Class on the Diagoras

The Greeks are not known as a nation of dog-lovers, but we met a whole lot of them on Friday. 

It was time to take Lisa the labrador pup to the vet for her check-up. We were down at the port by 6 a.m., but the good ship Diagoras was delayed on its long journey from Athens, and daylight arrived while we waited.

It had been an exciting week, as my book Falling in Honey is now out, and the Daily Express published a fabulous story about my move to Tilos. I was thrilled by the support of friends who helped spread the word online. But it was good to leave the computer behind for the day. I'd be spending an entire day, from dawn til midnight, with the dog. And I thought writing a book was hard work...


Lisa took to her first cruise quite happily - naturally, as she was a star from the moment we went up the escalators; the ship's crew were already blowing kisses at her. Up on the top deck, the only section where dogs are allowed, one of them took photos. We also met plenty of other travellers who asked to stroke her and told us about their own dogs. A little boy from Nisyros asked if he could take her for a walk around the deck. 

Once in Rhodes, we went to the vet, who gave her inoculations; we bought a hefty supply of bones and chews at the shop; then it was off to explore. First stop, the old town, full of interesting smells for dogs - not a fast walk, then. 

We made it at last to Mandraki where I managed to shop while balancing a wriggling dog in my arms. I didn't think we'd be allowed into the smart cosmetics shop Sephora, but we almost weren't allowed to leave, so many people wanted to get to know her - giggling teenagers, pretty beauticians, the security guy. Stelios called: could I buy some screws so he could finish building the dog's new house? Of course...

I'd planned to walk her on Elli beach, but had forgotten what a long way it was, especially when we had to stop every few minutes to discuss her breed, find out where we got her. Finally, after carrying bags of shopping and an exhausted pup, I sat down on a step on a street corner with her to give her a drink and a rest, and sitting there in my hairy dog-clothes I realised people might start throwing spare change into the dog bowl. I was too tired to care.

I love Rhodes on a sunny day out of season, when you can see snow on the mountains in Turkey. We ventured back through the old town and found this lovely street, which gets packed with tourists in summer, absolutely empty now and bathed in sunshine. Exhausted, I lay down on a bench doing my homeless person act again, with the sun on my face, while Lisa devoured a chew; but soon we had company again. 

It was a pleasure to meet so many nice people. I usually have my nose buried in a book. An elegant old lady in black was taking a walk down a cobbled street and chuckled at Lisa.

The ship was due to leave Rhodes for Tilos at 7 p.m., but knowing it's often delayed, I hoped to find a friendly cafe. The Technourgeio Cafe is one of my favourite places for its recycled wood decor, art on the walls and eclectic menu. It just happens to look out towards where the Diagoras docks, so it's the perfect place to wait. I hesitantly carried Lisa in my arms, asking if there was any chance we could come in...

The waitress gave me a welcoming smile and told me she loved dogs, and to sit anywhere. So I got to eat, and Lisa got to sleep for a while... until we met a lovely seven year old girl who laughed when Lisa licked her face, and told me tricks I need to teach her.

Finally, it was back to the boat, to try to get a little rest up on deck. Lisa had behaved impeccably all day. Soon we were chatting with a couple of guys on leave from military service, and being introduced to beautiful huskies and other dogs with booming barks. 

It was getting cold so we found a little spot just inside the door at the top of the stairs. Lisa spread herself out right in the middle so that all passers-by would be sure to see her. 

We sat for a while with a young chap who'd just lost his job as a mechanic in Rhodes due to lack of business, and was heading up to northern Greece to live with his girlfriend there, grow some vegetables and start a different life. His parents in Kalymnos would be coming down to see the boat when it docked at 4 a.m., just to see him for a few minutes. As he talked, he stroked Lisa to sleep.

And in case you missed it, here's the link to the Daily Express story!


  1. A dog is a wonderful way to meet people.

    When I was in Greece thirty years ago I noticed that they did not seem to be much for pets and tolerated dogs unsentimentally as useful farm animals (so long as they left the sheep alone). I was told on Naxos that at one time there had been a report that a black dog had killed some sheep and every black dog on the island had been shot. I assume things have changed.

  2. Well, there are still dogs kept unsentimentally as working farm animals, certainly. But I've been surprised at how much affection there is for dogs even among the farmers here - and surprised also by how many people keep dogs as pets now.

  3. When I was tramping around Greece I would judge a village by its cats. If they were friendly and unafraid, I took this to mean that they had been well-treated and that there were nice people there, and if the cats were skittish, then perhaps I ought to watch myself while I was there.

  4. Hello Jennifer
    I'm so happy to have found your blog on Tilos!
    Me and my family are holiday visitors to Tilos since 2002. We have re-visited the island during the same period late June early July, and the description of the business of Eristos beach is totally unfamiliar to me, although friends in Livadia always talk about the beach being full of campers in August. I love the hart-warming way you write about the island bcuase you catch the low pulse and tranquillity of Tilos that calls us back every summer, all the way from Malmö Sweden.
    Best wishes from your latest fan :-)

    1. Thank you so, so much, Susann! What a great message!
      Tilos is so low-key even when you are usually there - you can imagine what it's like in the winter, with all the restaurants closed. Up in Megalo Horio where I live, everyone's just looking after their fields and going fishing.
      We plan to open the kantina this year around mid-June and it will still be very quiet then so it would be lovely if you took the bus over to say hello one day. In any case, I hope you are looking forward to this summer's trip. I'm looking forward to summer and swimming again every day...and eating out at Omonia again, my favourite!
      Very best wishes,

    2. Thanks for the invitation to Eristos beach Jennifer! Sure, we'll catch the bus. We like moving around a bit and there are some places that we have to go to every year on Tilos :)
      Last year my husband and I borrowed a couple of bikes in Livadia and they "took us", and very hard work, all the way to Eristos. We saw the kantina, unfortunately still closed, and our thoughts went back to Vangelis and his last years at the beach. So happy that you have continued the "tradition"! So now I'm really looking forward to the best part of summer. All the best to you from Susann

  5. Just finished reading your book which i found very refreshing. Detail was excellent.
    I first arrived at Tilos 21 years ago in the month of May. a beautiful time to experience the islands many riches.

    1. Thank you so much for a wonderful message to start my day. May is a beautiful time - though March almost feels like May this year, with warm sunshine...

  6. Please tell March to save some sunshine for coming May