While in Greece, relaxing in a remote village, my husband and I followed a walking map provided by the hotel. We ventured out on a scenic walk through the olive groves; first leading us over a stone road toward a small dome-roofed chapel. We walked in the small garden, admiring flowers and went on through the village. A small brown dog greeted us from one of the first houses. We pet him, and moved on our way, only to see him following us. Chris shrugged, considering how long the little guy might hang on. Surely he’ll turn around soon. We ventured onto a dirt two-track road behind an olive grove and into a driveway next to a well, where two men were filling water jugs. We greeted them with a ‘Yassas’. They replied with a smile, as one man noticed the dog and chuckled, obviously recognizing him. We developed a story to ourselves that he probably had two or three ‘owners’, either or all claiming him.
We both decided it was the dog’s choice to follow us, and not our responsibility.
We found the road winding slightly inclining and periodically stopped to rest in the shade or to take photos. The dog did, too. Once in a while, he’d go ahead of us, or sometimes lagged behind; but stayed with us for over 2 km. Occasionally, we passed fields with cows or goats, but the dog seemed to ignore. “Is he leading us, or are we leading him?” We thought about it, making a metaphor about leading, following, and trusting.
He stopped abruptly, lifted his paw and hobbled to me on three legs, looking expectantly. I checked, inspecting the pads and between his toes for thorns. I didn’t find anything. He seemed satisfied and moved on. I wondered if it was a test to see if we would look out for him. He continued with us to the next village. He aggravated barking yard dogs, sniffed at cars and hiked his leg periodically, but seemed completely familiar with the village. We found the town center and determined it would be a good time to stop for a frappe. We figured he would wander off, but he sat down under the next table and waited; when we got up 45 min later, he woke up and continued with us.
After that much time, I decided we needed a name for our new canine friend. I adopted him as Charlie. We tried to find the walking trail back to the main road, but doubting ourselves, Charlie was even more skeptical. He lagged back, looking at us questioningly. When we continued, and asked him for guidance and Charlie sat down, refusing to go further; and looked back the way we came. As soon as we turned around, Charlie wagged his tail and came with us. We paid our ‘guide’s’ fee by sharing some of our water. We took the paved road through the town, which seemed to meet Charlie’s approval. After 2 km reaching the main road, we wondered if Charlie would follow us back to the hotel. Shortly, one of the employees from the hotel slowed down and offered us a ride. We said goodbye to Charlie, hoping he’d understand. She looked back in the rear view window. “Oh, I know that dog. He’s the priest’s dog. He follows everyone. He likes meeting new people.”
We wondered if we would see Charlie again.
A few days later, we started out on the same trail, but this time hoping to find another landmark. Sure enough, from the house behind the chapel, Charlie popped out, wagging his tail, jumping up and licking us. He obviously remembered us and was happy we came back. This time, he went with us past a couple houses, but once we asked directions, he turned around and went back. It seemed to us that he knew his job was done, and we would be fine.
I’m not sure what we have to learn from Charlie, but I think we will find out soon.