Sat 21 Nov, Paphos: Having tried, and failed, the previous afternoon to locate the entrance to Paphiakos Animal Sanctuary, I return with renewed determination. I study maps, take directions, drive round and finally I see the small unobtrusive entrance on Spyrou Kyprianou Avenue in the centre of the old town of Paphos (despite being a fairly substantial area, it is not, unlike the Karting or Paintball centres, marked as anything on the map).
I was to meet Marina to visit the shelter where she found my own dog, Florrie, but she has to work today, so I decide to spend the morning at Paphiakos. It has a dubious reputation as a shelter; unlike most (except municipal pounds), it has a kill policy, although they keep quiet about the numbers that are put to sleep. It is also said to be not very active in rehoming dogs and, indeed, some have been here for a number of years; almost their whole lives. It’s a complex organisation with travel facilities and education programmes, and, people have spoken well about their veterinary services, which offer free cat neutering. I’m greeted by Laura, a kennel assistant, who is very friendly, welcomes me and talks affectionately about the dogs, cats and donkeys on the site. They currently have around 300 dogs. She begins to show me around, but is called away, telling me it’s fine to photograph anywhere.
As I walk I acquire a following of cats and donkeys. A number of bull breed dogs are chained to trees and I’m careful to gauge the length of their chains as I pass, although when I finally do stray too close a black dog greets me affectionately. The site is stony and barren, with a few corrugated buildings and one house, around which the large dog enclosure is situated, with the small dogs and puppies in separate enclosures.
“…visual experience is saturated with the tactile history of the experiencing agent. The tactile and the visual are interwoven, in that my history of touching objects similar to the one in question is woven into my current visions of it.” (p182 Diana Coole New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency and Politics, 2010).
Although clean, the enclosures contain nothing but blue barrels for sleeping, and the dogs appear anxious and readily break into barking and howling; I see some being picked on aggressively by others lacking any other stimulation. The small dogs flock to the wire to lick my fingers, but soon become bored as I remain there quietly and they eventually wander off to sit or lie down. Suddenly a donkey appears by the bars and the whole enclosure erupts in frenetic noise and chaos once again.
“In an aversion to animals the predominant feeling is fear of being recognized by them through contact. The horror that stirs deep in man [sic] is an obscure awareness that in him something lives so akin to the animal that it might be recognized. All disgust is originally disgust at touching.” (Walter Benjamin ‘Gloves’, in One-Way Street and Other Writings, 1997).
After saying my goodbyes to Laura, I head for the gate, trailing a stream of cats to my car. I begin the hour and a half journey to Nicosia, past Aphrodite’s Temple, back through the Paphos Tunnel and past Limassol.
I stop off for a Cyprus coffee at the kiosk near Sirius and consider revisiting the Sanctuary, but decide against it. Each visit is an emotional experience and I have experienced enough for a while.
I rejoin the A1 motorway and arrive back at NiMAC mid-afternoon.