Crete Part XI: Cretan Critters

One of the many things I’ve learned this year is that I definitely prefer livestock production over crop production. Don’t get me wrong–I still love plants. I just love animals more.

Being a student in a city-based university means the only regular exposure I have to animals is the cows in the park, the ducks at the pond, and the magpies that dig through the rubbish bins outside my window.

Oh, and the rats. There are lots of rats.

But since none of those are particularly cuddly, I’ve been feeling rather critter-deprived this year. One of my very favorite things about Crete was the abundance of animals–and actually getting to interact with most of them!

I’m in a farming program, so you’d think there would be lots of livestock involved. But HA! You’d think wrong, because this was a perennial crops module, not a livestock module, so we learned about trees and vines. But you’d only be mostly wrong, because we did talk about using livestock like goats, sheep, and chickens to help manage orchards. They keep the weeds down and add valuable nutrients back to the soil through their manure, so they can be really useful so long as they don’t eat your trees.

There were literally snails everywhere. Every wall, every fence, every cactus and agave plant. They were even on my dinner plate once, which I didn’t like so much. I joked around about doing a series of photos of snails on random objects. I wasn’t really kidding. I will call it “Snails on Things”. What do you think? Would you buy the coffee table book?

If I were to include other creatures that sometimes make people squeal in delight disgust, I would have no shortage of candidates. There were bugs (including a dastardly mosquito who buzzed in my ear one night and kept me awake), thieving pigeons, and sticky-toed geckos galore. I especially liked the geckos. I tried to catch one, but he had way faster reflexes than me.

But my favorite critters—hence the reason why they were saved for last—were all the stray dogs and cats. The cats are kept around for rodent control, but they spend as much time begging for table scraps as they do hunting mice. Most of the strays are friendly, which meant that all I had to do to get some quality critter-petting time in was to walk down to the square, sit at a taverna, and wait for them to come to me.

One stray in particular stole my heart. She was a little brown and white terrier with a curly tail and the sweetest disposition. When I’d rub her belly, she’d lean her head back and her lips would fall open so she looked like she was smiling. Haha! The owner of one of the tavernas saw me petting her one night and said, “That is a souvenir dog! You take it home with you!” Ohhh, how I wish I could have. She was lovely.

It was nice to think she liked me too, but I wasn’t sure she saw me as anything more than a meal ticket* until two nights before I left. I was going over to get a picture of the church, which was all lit up for the evening, and I was so focused on finding the right angle that I nearly stepped on her. When I looked down, she started wagging her tail like crazy. I reached down to pet her, but she had a crust of bread some other tourist had given her, and she didn’t want me to steal it, so she moved away.

“Okay,” I said. “Then I’m going to go home. Bye.”

But when I walked away, she followed me. I stopped to let her catch up, and she quickly chomped down the last of her bread and came running over for more belly rubbing.

I died. She is so cute.

Chemaya
Mine.

I named her Chemaya (long story), and someday, I will go back for her. So if you go to Crete and you see a cute little white terrier with a pirate patch, she’s mine, alright? I claimed her.

But if you want to give her a belly rub, that’s okay. She likes those.

Read more about my Cretan adventure here.

* Yes, I knooowwww you’re not supposed to feed table scraps to dogs. But do you realize how hard it is to say no to a begging stray—especially when that stray is the cutest things you’ve ever seen?

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