Greece: Protesters unleash the dogs of war

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The Independent Online

With its public finances going to the dogs, it is only natural that even canines resort to street protests in Greece.

And in all of the upheavals in Athens, one riot dog has been visible above all others: Sausage – Loukanikos, in Greek – is a sandy mongrel with a reputation for standing up to the police and who is so popular he has been honoured with his very own Facebook page. The dog, also known as Thodoros, delighted protesters when they saw him holding his own with a policeman before running up and down the city's main boulevard and relieving himself. Thodoros is part of a small canine contingent that seems to always back the protesters, and never the authorities.

Achilleas Adam and his partner, Katerina, look after more than 50 stray dogs in the city. "When police throw teargas canisters on to protesters, Thodoros grabs the canisters in his mouth and nudges them away," says Mr Adam. "These dogs feel the need to protect people," he explains. The other team members are Petros, Babis and Harris. Apart from the strays, there is another famous presence in protests: the mother-daughter team of black Labradors, Ekavi and Sans Papiers.

These dogs are following in the footsteps of Kanellos, the most feted of Athens' riot dogs, who died in July 2008. A woman who cared for Kanellos says he is buried at the Technical University of Athens, a symbol of insurrection. "He used to go to all the protests and even to the courts when someone was arrested," she added.

The number of strays in Greece is a reflection of the country's economic difficulties. The public affection for Loukanikos, though, is such that he is unlikely to need any state support. "Riot dog is getting so popular he may need his own security," wrote one member of his 19,000-strong Facebook page, Raina Panarese. "Keep on fighting for the people. Good boy."