RIP Arkoudos (Greek for bear) is a Facebook page dedicated to the memory of one of Athens’ most famous and beloved strays, where people who met him, loved him and took care of him are free to post about him, and share memories.
Arkoudos died this week, at the age of 18! With the life expectancy of strays being at only 2 years, Arkoudos made it to 18, against all odds, and for the last week, the animal welfare world in Greece is mourning the death of the most famous stray of all.
Arkoudos had lived all his life on the streets of Nea Smyrni, a southern suburb of Athens, Greece. Friendly, social and loved by everyone, Arkoudos would greet you every day, kindly offering a handshake with his huge, white paw.
The residents took care of him, the local stores and animal lovers provided him with food, water, and medication. Always a gentleman, Arkoudos used to accompany women home. His home was the central square of Nea Smyrni, where he spent most of his life.
There are hundreds of stories about him – Arkoudos was an urban legend really. Once, for example, he went missing and had many people worried. He appeared in a suburb 13 kilometers away – apparently he had fallen asleep in the tram and ended up there.
In 2015, Arkoudos, aged 17 was hit by a car and suffered a leg fracture. After having lived all his life on the streets, he resisted any kind of confinement, so the people’s solution was to let him recover at “home” – the square. He recovered there, tied in his favorite spot. Signs placed around the area were warning people about his state, and asking that nobody removed him, nor fed him, because he was on a special diet.
At the age of 18, Arkoudos spent his final months in a home. Eleni, a resident of the neighborhood and a rescuer, took him in. For some reason, Arkoudos did not resist her. After 17 years on the streets, Arkoudos spent the final months of his life on Eleni’s sofa, and he died having a family of his own.
I never met him, but it feels like I did. I did meet Eleni though. A few months ago, on July 2016, we did the Penny Marathon together – she did the driving, I did the filming, and I could feel the love and the excitement in her voice, every time she talked about him. She just could not believe that after all those years, that giant teddy was at home with her.
It is weird losing a stray. It feels like losing a historical monument or a common good. Arkoudos belonged to everyone, and at the same time, he belonged to nobody at all. I guess this is why he deserves his own Facebook page, and that’s why I felt like writing about him, even though I never met him.