Wednesday, June 23, 2010

No Happy Ending.

So, despite all the shit that has hit the fan this week the work on the ruin is looking good. All the ‘sovar’ or rendering has been done inside, the plumbing is in and there’s actually running water up there now, the electrics are also in and the ‘karistoo’ path has been done down the side. Last week, before the puppy incident, we visited a window shop to get some prices and later a guy stopped off to take a look at the work. He was another that Mikalis had put us onto and I warned him that if the price was a piss-take I would be saying, ‘Oshi’. As it turns out we were pleasantly surprised. The price was high, but not rip-off. We had already checked what it might be by looking at wooden windows for sale on the Internet in Britain, then adding extra for the shutters and the fact that these would be made to fit. It seems that very shortly it will be time for tiling, and then going out to buy things like toilets and sinks.

Thursday 17th

So here we are precisely one week after the subhuman child nearby set fire to a puppy. ... You know, I write the words but they keep seeming ridiculous to me. They are the kind of words you use metaphorically or in analogy: ‘He looks so pissed off you’d think someone set fire to his puppy’. Anyway, getting back to that child; what is subhuman or, more precisely, subnormal? In Britain, when a child does something like this, the reaction of 99% of people is disbelieving horror. An army of child psychologists and social workers would be on the scene to deal with this problem child and his problem family. But I’m pretty certain that’s not the case here.

In the evening last Thursday, after Mikalis and his crew had gone, the child and his little brother finally ventured out. This was not a good move on their part since, at that time, Caroline was out watering the plants, and she of course went after them and started having a go at them. Shortly after this, three men turned up, possibly relations or friends of the family, at which point I joined in (I was tending to avoid the kids as my reaction would not have been verbal). I explained to the men, ‘Vazi fotia se mikro skilachi’ which is, ‘He set fire to a puppy’. One of the men laughed then stopped when I said, ‘Oshi ha ha ha ha’ and he saw my expression. I also at one point had the little brat concerned by the throat so I guess they figured I wasn’t happy. I thought the laughter due to the man thinking, ‘Ah, the Englishman is no good at Greek and has said something silly’. Now I don’t believe that.

Ever since we arrived here three years ago, when we go shopping in Sitia, we stop for a giros and a frappe in a Greek fast food place. The wife in the family that runs the place likes chatting to her English customers and I’ve learnt some useful words and phrases from her. This week I went shopping whilst Caroline stayed home to look after the puppy. I stopped at the fast food place for takeaway giros and as usual got a cheerful, ‘Ti kanis?’ which means ‘How are you?’ but translates as, ‘What do you do?’ (I’ll figure it out one day). Rather than reply, ‘Ime kala,’ or ‘I am well,’ I replied, ‘Then kalo,’ or ‘Not good’. The woman asked me to explain, which I did, both in Greek and English. There could be no misunderstanding. Her reaction was precisely zero then, when she turned away to work at something on a nearby counter, she looked to me like she was smirking. As he handed over my two giros her husband, however, could not have been clearer. He was laughing, with tears in is eyes. He then asked me, ‘Spirito?’ squirting an imaginary plastic spirit bottle – sold in all the shops here – towards the ground. Perhaps he had misunderstood. ‘Neh,’ I replied, ‘Yes’. ‘I love that,’ he said, obviously carried away by the hilarity of it all. I snatched my order from his hand and left. In retrospect I wished I’d asked him how amusing he’d find it if I shoved his head in his chip fryer.

A little thought later and I realised something. Long straight burns on the puppy’s back had puzzled me. I now realised they were caused by the long thin streams of spirit from the squeezy bottle. Most likely the person using the bottle lights the tip first then uses it as a mini flame-thrower. Something else occurred: there’s a picture of a badly burnt dog in the Gecko Bar – someone collecting funds for its treatment. This, I reckon, is a common occurrence here and, quite probably, the mountains and ruins are littered with the bones of dogs that have died in agony, saturated either with burning spirit or hot oil (Mikalis’s first assumption). And now I see that to these people, a boy doing such a thing is just acting precisely as it has been raised and to his parents is just normal.

I asked Mikalis if the people of our village probably think we are crazy, and he didn’t hesitate when he replied, ‘Yes’. A lot of the old people of the village have known starvation and when dogs are in competition with humans for food they’re going to lose. They keep lots of free-range chickens too and I perfectly understand their dislike of strays wandering into the village, I also think that in these circumstances it is perfectly acceptable for them to shoot any dog that is a danger to livestock. I don’t, however, understand the fear many Greeks have of dogs – a phobic reaction with elements of hatred and disgust in it. And this was a small puppy. It would have run in terror from the massive chickens here. It probably ran up to the boy, wagging its tail, waiting to be petted. It probably followed him about while he went to get his bottle of spirit and light the spout. Plain ugly cruelty; plain joy in seeing an animal in agony.

Back to the puppy, because I guess some of you reading this will want to know. It is eating, drinking and manages to wander about a bit. The rest of the time it is crying in pain when trying to stand up or lie down, or sleeping. It still manages to wag its tail, surprisingly. In retrospect, however, I wish I’d picked up the nearest rock the moment we got hold of her and put her out of her pain, rather than have put her through this last week.

No Happy Ending, Wednesday 23rd.

Too much, in the end. As some of the puppy’s skin started to fall off I hoped this a sign that it was healing. More and more fell off and the creature ended up in much more pain. I knew, as it lost all the skin across its stomach, that the skin on its back would go next. It would probably lose 50% of its skin and even if it grew back it was doubtful there would be any hair on it. A dog with exposed skin on its back on Crete is never going to be able to go outside for long. It also stopped eating and its suffering was such that we knew it could not go on. We said we would take it to the vet in Ierapetra to have it put down – an hour and a half to two hour drive away. Mikalis said no and took it the 15 minute journey to his home to put it out of its misery. He, or a friend of his, had a gun.


Leatherdykeuk said...

Gods. Bugger the fiction - this is read, heartbreaking horror.

Michael Stone said...

This post is just heartbreaking. Bad enough it happened to one pup, to read of it being commonplace, or at least 'acceptable'...I don't know what to say. Just filled with rage and sorrow.

Antony said...

Yes there's lots of bad things about the UK, and no doubt we have our share of cruel heartless bastards too, but the reaction of the locals here would (as you said) be horror and revulsion - the police and social services getting involved too.

Its a shame that a beautiful country with otherwisely 'nice' people can be marred by such a casual concern for cruelty.

Jebel Krong said...

man. that's utter crap. i know different cultures have a different outlook on different things - treatment of certain animals being one of them - but there comes a point in developed society when such things become base - greece should be there by now. the fact that adults treat it as a bit of a joke is almost as shocking as the act. they wouldn't be laughing so hard if santorini decided to rain hellfire on them, though, i bet.

Kirby Uber said...


Shayla said...

What a terrible story, I like your blog though and look forward to reading more.

Stacey Smith said...

In this day of political correctness, we are not allowed to say that aspects of some cultures are just no good. This situation is about a dog, so perhaps we all can just let it go. Beware, however, when backward thinking is applied to your body, you, a human being. Should anyone care then?

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

rough read about Jeffrey Dahmer Jr.'s triumph over life.
it's sorta like reading the backwater Vance story where everything functions without logic to the degree that the traditions infringe on existence. its a few steps below that yarn since they use the euro in Crete.

watch out for the egg worsipping cult, the 'men of gatortaint', the cleft-feather hatchet week, and rock dropping from the roof holiday.

do you have to cover your face with a chew plate before you are allowed to eat in Greece? that might be a little too UK..

Paul said...

I don't know if it's a Greek thing or a S Europe thing.

In Cyprus they like to keep pets but care little for them. It's not uncommon to see a dog chained to a tree in a yard. The dog will stay there, chained, for it's entire life. They also like to throw their dogs out of the car on the motorway when they are bored with them, sometimes they'll stop the car.

The (normal) British attitude to dogs and animals in general just doesn't exist.

You tried and you did the best thing in the end for the dog.

Scott said...

I've seen similar disregard for animals in the South Eastern US and in inner cities. Poverty, ignorance, and anger were the only common threads I saw. Hell if I understand it.

paulb said...

fuck, that sucks Neal, but god bless you and your missus for caring so much.

Variant13 said...

Proves your one of the good guys in a shite world. Dont ever change

Thud said...

Living amongst people with such obviously different values do you feel comfortable? is there not more confrontation ahead possible due to other unforseen differences?Be careful....we like your work but congratulations on your stance.

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Nachtwulf said...

Mister Asher, you are a far, far better man than I am. I can say, with no posturing whatsoever, had I been in your position, I'd be in a Greek prison right now.

Bob Lock said...

Sounds like a morally bankrupt society as well as a financial one. Well done for giving the poor thing at least a fighting chance.

Djehuty said...

This had me absolutely livid whilst I was at work.

I just hugged my big puppy, Orielle, so I feel slightly better.
I'd love to see that little shit try it on her. I'd have to take bets which of us would kill him first.

Orielle is a German Shepherd/Black Labrador, and she's absolutely gigantic, and has police upbringing. Gorgeous and highly intelligent.

Lynn said...

This is a horrible thing to say, I know, but reading this made me think that nuking a fairly large part of the world might not be an entirely bad thing.

NMM1AFan said...

Mr. Asher,

Sorry to say, but you live in a town of fucking savages.

Guess I'll scratch Greece off of the list of places to visit.

Graeme said...

You tried. See if you can affect a change. It can't have been easy, good luck.

Scott Marlowe said...

While I understand there are bound to be cultural/lifestyle issues, if setting fire to puppies is so commonplace that's just not somewhere I'd like to live.

We recently enacted a law that states you can't leave your dog tied up outside unattended. Period. Why? Because this is Texas and it gets damn hot out and ppl in the past have done this and not left adequate water or given the dog access to shade even. It seems like common sense, but this at least gives the authorities the ability to press charges against ppl who clearly don't take care of their animals.

Anyway, I wouldn't second guess yourself re trying to help the dog vs. putting her down. You had to try.

Asmus said...

God, that absolutely sucks. Good of you two to try to save that poor puppy.
I swear, when ever I look into a dog's eyes, I wonder how on Earth you can be cruel to a dog or another creature.

Larry said...

Oh I've been away from here a while. I just found this. What the hell posses some people to do shit like this?? They cant be human! I dont know how anyone can cause harm to somnething so innocent!
This kind of stuff makes me really angry and upset and want to douse those repsonsible in petrol and light it!
Sick f###ers!

Nuno said...

I'm a new reader of both this blog and your fiction, so I've been skimming through older posts and have found this (sadly real) horror story. Intellectually, I know that these things happen, but to hear it from someone that has experienced it and see those photographs of the poor creature... no words. Monsters lurk all around us, and closer than we think -- just like the "nice" lady in the fast food place.