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February 3, 2018

Over the past several years, since the start of Greece’s financial crisis, thousands of businesses have closed up shop, with just two exceptions – and they are flourishing. One sector, of course, includes the pharmacies – hell, we all need our meds, and probably more so in times of stress, so that needs no explanation. But the other one came to light, at least in my eyes, last week when I took one of my three cats to the vet. While waiting for Ko-Go’s treatment, (this is him, and he's fine, thank you) I noticed at least four employees scurrying about. When I first started using this particular vet, she was a one-woman operation. Thinking about this fact, I did some quick research and realized, among the many empty and boarded up stores, there was a rash of pet shops and veterinarian offices opening up throughout Crete, as well as other parts of Greece.


Hmm . . . what’s going on here? I dusted off my old press card, stuck it in the brim of my hat like Humphrey Bogart in Deadline – U.S.A., and asked my Vet about this seemingly strange situation.


“It’s the crisis,” she said, going on to explain that with so many people out of work, they are staying at home much more and feeling lonely. “A pet is a perfect companion, especially in times like these,” she said.


Makes a lot of sense to me. You see, when I first moved to Crete some 30 years ago, coming from a country where almost every other home has at least one dog or cat (plus birds, fish and an occasional hamster), I found it strange that Greeks had almost no house pets. Their idea of a pet, at the time, was to keep a couple of dogs tied up outside for when they go rabbit hunting, or to have a vicious canine patrolling their property for protection. Almost never did anyone have an indoor pet.


While there are no official statistics so far in Crete, our Vet, a veteran veterinarian with offices located in Crete’s capital of Iraklion, estimates that one out of five households now have a pet, and, as in the states, the cat population outnumbers the opposition, which includes dogs (both small and large), caged birds, some tropical fish and an occasional rabbit. But not too many pet rabbits. One of Crete’s signature culinary dishes is κουνέλι στιφάδο  -- you figure it out.

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