celebrating the street dogs of the Balkans


On a bus ride from Skopje to Lake Ohrid, our bus stopped at a ‘service station’ on a mountain. Waiting on the road were these four Sarplaninac, or Macedonian Sheepdogs – an ancient breed known for their loyalty, protective nature and independence. Despite the warnings given about approaching this breed, these four dogs seemed very content in attracting the interests of passing strangers.


This was the first dog I encountered in Skopje  – he was always sitting by a kebab stand which was on our route in to town from our hostel near by the station. It became a regular sight to see him there, and after four days of walking back and forth past his ‘patch’ we struck up a bit of a friendship (or possibly just mutual acknowledgement) and the dog would come over to say and trot down the road a bit with us.

This next dog we saw in the Debar Maalo area of Skopje. It seemed like a very sweet, old dog and was quite content chewing lying on the pavement, chewing a bone. A local man and his baby daughter stopped by to say hello to it so I assume the dog is a trusted member of the community. I imagine if this dog could talk it would have a lot of interesting stories to tell!

This dog was calmly sheltering from the rain down the road from Mother Teresa’s memorial house.

Mount Vodno

On a sunny Saturday afternoon – what better day trip to make from Skopje but a journey up to the top of Mount Vodno. Immediately when we reached the top, we were greeted by this magnificent fellow.

I don’t think he was a stray as he seemed in excellent health and well groomed, however he did seem to free reign on the top of Vodno, wandering around and looking down on the sprawling city of Skopje beneath him.

After a long walk, we made our way over to the mountain hut to get some warming Planinski Caj – waiting there was another dog, obviously with the hope of getting some leftover crusts from the hikers picnics!

Finally time to leave… one last look back at the huge cross adorning the top, and it’s goodbye from the dogs.

Lake Ohrid

Meet this cheeky chap who lives on the streets of Lake Ohrid. He was obviously quite young and was very playful with the local residents. One night when eating a big Balkan grill, I spotted him sitting across the road on a wall looking over. I had too much food to eat myself so decided to take a doggy bag of my leftover meat. When I left the restaurant and gave it to him, the food went in a few seconds…he loved it! This then led to a problem, I didn’t have any more and the dog had got the taste and wanted more. I then spent the next 15 minutes telling the dog to stop following me – he would go, then a few minutes later appear again at my side… he eventually got the message but it took a while. Lesson learnt – if you give a stray dog food, expect them not to leave you alone!

Further round Lake Ohrid – Trpejca & Sveti Naum

My my first encounter with a Trpejca resident was meeting this big, black dog at the top of the village. After a short while checking us out, he seemed satisfied that we meant no harm and trotted off. We followed him down the stone steps into the village, and came across his local watering hole – Lake Ohrid.

What a tongue!

Next stop was the lakeside monastery of Sveti Naum, where even the local dogs reflected the peaceful ambiance of a balmy spring day by the lake.


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