The salt breeze washes over my classmates and me, as we commute to our first week of classes. We know little of our host city, and we certainly do not expect to find a companion snoozing by the waterfront. A mass of caramel brown hair unfolds itself from around a lamppost and weaves among us. Nervous laughter bubbles from the group, mingled with calls to close ranks. Around halfway through our walk, we dash across the street in hopes of evading our canine escort. He responds by trotting past us, only to return with a friend to help him keep his flock (us) in check.
Later that day, a waitress informs us that many of the stray dogs in Thessaloniki were turned out of their homes when the economic crisis hit. While their owners parted with them due to inability to feed their bellies, the animals now hunger for human company. It is common for homeless canines to accompany walkers, showing them around their city in exchange for a few crumbs of compassion.
Over the next six weeks, most our class warms to the strays of Thessaloniki, hiring them as our unofficial tour guides. We adopt a mid-sized mutt when we tour the West city villas, dubbing him “Truman Doctrine” and calling after him whenever he darts into the street. Although they lead us through a city faced with financial crisis, Thessaloniki’s canines have acquainted GLS 319 with a thriving economy of kindness.