The mysterious riot-dog of Athens

20:00, May 11 2010

He trots blithely past lines of riot police. He dodges water cannon, flees teargas but is at the front of the column when a barrier's being stormed. He's always stoutly on the side of the protesters. Who? No less than that famed canine agitator, the riot dog of Athens.

The Greek capital sees a lot of street protests - lately against "austerity measures" - and it's said the sturdy tan riot dog is present for all of them.

I started seeing mentions of him the other day on the net, and collections of photos of him at protests dating between 2007 and this year. (Check out those galleries - they're much more exciting than the Reuters photos I was able to find.)

Some marchers and onlookers swear the dog turns up any time protesters gather, and stays with them like a spirit of resistance, a rebel with paws.

Others say he's not the riot dog, but several, all wearing the common blue collar issued for male dogs, and grabbing the attention of photographers looking for some incongruous symbol to frame in their viewfinders and imbue their snaps with depth.

If that's true, then all those dogs do bear a remarkable resemblance to each other. Sort of a rent-a-mob-dog.

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Yet others say he's a partly imagined continuation of the spirit of Kanellos, the Athens stray that loved to join in street protests but reputedly died in 2008. Perhaps someone is bringing along their Kanellos-type dog as a morale-booster to the street-troops.

I prefer to believe he's real. It's more fun that way. I like to think of him running with the stirrers and comforting the teargassed, and barking out his defiant message: riot-dogs of the world, unite - you have nothing to lose but your chain.

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Pictures: Reuters