Part of what makes traveling so exciting is seeing how people live around the world. But during my trip to Europe this summer, I realized that humans aren’t the only ones with cultural quirks.
Those of us who grew up in urban parts of the U.S. will agree that we have pretty specific ideas about animals in our society: dogs and cats are beloved pets that require love, attention and the occasional piece of unnecessary clothing. When I drive past a dog walking down the street alone, I immediately assume it’s lost. Seeing a cat dart across the street leaves me wringing my hands with worry. Imagine my utter shock when I realized that people in other parts of the world view pets as relatively autonomous creatures.
While visiting some incredible ruins of an amphitheater in Greece, I spotted something lying in the road next to a not-yet-fully-excavated stadium. The little brown dog was sprawled out on the hot gravel, completely still. It would’ve been a sad sight, had the dog not merely been sleeping.
It had no collar, nor was there an obvious owner nearby. It was just there, napping in the sun and completely oblivious of spastic American tourists ready to weep buckets over it.
But while this leisurely canine seemed perfectly content, a local in the little seaside town of Nafplion told me that, in fact, some of the dogs and cats I’d seen roaming the streets had been brought from the larger cities and abandoned, their owners unable to afford them anymore. The assumption is that small town residents are kinder and will occasionally feed the strays. Whatever the case, a few other animals I encountered during my travels proved to be quite capable.
It was a sweltering day in Corfu, Greece … and that’s if you weren’t stuck in a fur coat. This dog took matters into his own paws and found a clever way to keep cool.
While this isn’t exactly novel or shocking in any way, imagine the reaction a dog lying in front of Chipotle on Telegraph would receive.
The cats I encountered during my trip were few: a couple ragged-looking felines in Greece and a few snoozing under miniscule cars in Italy.
In Florence, a dog snoozing near the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery could count on not being disturbed thanks to a little sign placed by its owner, an artist selling his work nearby.
By far the most fascinating pets I have yet encountered were in Venice, Italy. Imagine, if you will: a city consisting of 118 small islands connected by bridges and narrow canals. There are no bikes, no taxis and no cars – the only modes of transportation are boats and your own two feet.
In contrast to other Italian cities I had visited, I didn’t see one stray dog or cat roaming the streets of Venice. If they were there, they kept a very low profile. There were plenty of dogs walking with their owners all over the city. No small feat, considering that getting around in Venice is somewhat an ordeal for people. Most people get from place to place using the public ferry boats – or vaporetti – and dogs are no exception.
This little guy hesitated a little bit because the platform and the boat were rolling up and down on the waves, making it difficult to jump the gap. But he made it just in time – obviously an old pro. I can only imagine the nervous mess my own little suburban-bred dog would be.