Protest dog in Greece a global phenomenon

Protest dog in Greece a global phenomenon

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Protest dog in Greece a global phenomenon

Loukanikos barking in front of Greek riot police in Athens. The dog that has been pictured in demonstrations over the last two years has become an Internet phenomenon. AFP photo

An Athens stray dog who has become an unofficial mascot of city protests and an online sensation this week reaped another accolade by featuring in Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ award.

Sable-furred Loukanikos, ‘sausage’ in Greek was granted his own photo gallery in the magazine’s annual honours which this year were dedicated to protesters in the Arab world, the crisis-hit EU, the United States and Russia.

Widely known on the Internet as the Greek capital’s “riot dog,” the central Syntagma Square canine already has his own Facebook page with over 24,000 approval hits.

The Greek capital has many stray dogs and several are drawn to the noisy street protests that have been a fixture of social life even before the country was hit by a crippling debt crisis in 2009.

But protest regulars say only Loukanikos, who appeared around four years ago, actively participates, displaying fearlessness and an apparent dislike of riot police.

“He is always on the side of protesters,” says freelance photographer Alkis Konstantinidis.

“He also recognises photographers and greets them during demonstrations. He stands in front of riot police and barks at them, and when they fire tear gas, he runs after the gas cannisters and bites them,” Konstantinidis said.

Loukanikos is the latest in a line of four-legged Athens celebrities.

A few years previously, protest observers had also singled out Kanellos, a brown-black male who has not been seen recently.

And in the period around the 2004 Olympics, the city’s unofficial protest mascot was Glyka, a black bitch trained by her owner to hold specially-crafted placards between her teeth at the head of demonstrations.