Wed 20 Nov, Nicosia to Paphos via Troodos Mountains: After two days in Nicosia I begin my journey to Paphos and choose to go via the B9 motorway through the Troodos mountains, rather than the quicker A1. I drive West, passing the old airport, and then sweep south, the mountains spread out before me, past the roadside pottery sellers and through the strip villages. Eventually the road increases in steepness and pine clad the slopes. I pass through the wine region, with its billboards offering free tasting. I reach a crossroads; one road leading to Troodos (and Mount Olympos, the highest point in Cyprus), the other to Limassol. I stop at a roadside café and drink a Cyprus coffee. The air is cool and fresh and the pines thicker, obscuring the treacherous slopes. Occasional deciduous trees add surprising sparks of orange, a reminder that it’s November. A group of aging British bikers arrive and order tea and chips.
I continue down the steep incline towards Limassol (Lemesos) (one day I will take the Troodos road and from there cross to Paphos) and as I descend to the coastal plain and sweep round on the motorway (the ‘Paphos Highway’) heading West, a gleaming strip of blue Mediterranean appears to my left. After Limassol, rocky outcrops of chalk-like rock surround me; passing through the 950 metre Paphos tunnel I see the gleaming white buildings of Paphos. The directions I’ve been sent make it easy to navigate the winding streets of Chlorakas, and I soon find the Airbnb I’ll be staying at for three nights.
Thur 19 Nov, Paphos: My arrangements to meet Anita, who runs Paphos Private Dog Sanctuary, are complicated by a case of horrendous horse abuse that Anita has been called to deal with. Eventually she agrees to me coming to see her at 10.30 the following morning; her sanctuary is on the way to Paphos airport on the main road to Kouklia. I park outside the double iron gates and a man walks up the drive to open them for me (he is a client dropping off his two large dogs for boarding). Anita, a Londoner, welcomes me and we talk about the stray dog situation in Cyprus. She suggests the government should fund large (no kill) shelters in each province, with volunteers rehoming the (neutered and vaccinated) dogs, and implementing a Cyprus-wide neutering programme. The reasons for Cypriots’ aversion to neutering appear to range from religious objections, to machismo, to economic.
I stay only for another half hour and take only a few photographs, since Anita has to leave to take a dog to the vet’s, who closes for an hour and a half around lunchtime. With the afternoon free I decide to visit Tala Monastery Cat Sanctuary and its 600 cats, situated just below the Twelfth Century Monastery of Agios Neofytos, in a stunning location high in the hills with sweeping views down to the sea.
Fri 20 Nov, Paphos: at 6.30pm on Thur I finally receive email confirmation of my visit to PAWS Dog Shelter run by the charity, Cyprus Association for the Protection and Care of Animals (CAPCA), in Acheleia, not far from Anita’s. I arrive at 10 (and stay until 12.30pm). I’m greeted by a friendly Geordie voice, who introduces himself as Pete, one of the two Kennel Consultants, and who shows me around. It’s an impressive purpose-built shelter constructed eight years ago on land they purchased, after fund-raising half a million pounds. The municipality sets the limit of 150 dogs, and there are just over that number at the moment; they home around 20 dogs a month (most in Cyprus, the UK and Germany).
“The ethical turn… is a concern with and for alterity, especially insofar as alterity brings us to the limits of our own self-certainty and certainty about the world.” (p15 Kari Weill Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now, 2012).
It’s leafy, airy and light and the enclosures are set at angles to one another, less confrontational. I meet some of the 50 volunteers, and there is a good atmosphere. The majority of the dogs are hunting breeds, abandoned because they are poor hunters or injured. The hunting (of game birds and hares) is permitted in Cyprus on Wednesdays and Sundays during the hunting season, which runs from 1st November to 27th December. A hunting dog permit, licence and microchip are required by law, but in reality most stray hunting dogs have no microchip making tracing owners impossible.
“If we accept that animals other than human beings may be conscious, intentional agents, then we have also to ascribe to them personal as well as natural powers. That is, we are forced to recognize that they embody attributes of personhood which in the West are popularly identified with the condition of ‘humanity’. (p9 Tim Ingold What is an Animal? 1994)
Pete, who has ten dogs of his own at home and another seven foster dogs, stops to introduce me to a medium-sized, slightly nervous, light brown dog. He has just been offered a home in the UK after being here for two years. Pete says this makes it all worthwhile for him. We talk further about the stray situation in Cyprus and are the last to leave, the other staff and volunteers having driven away, leaving the place calm and peaceful; the dogs finally having nothing to bark at.