Like all legends, Loukanikos appeared out of nowhere. It was December 2008, and Athens had been in upheaval for two weeks after the killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a police officer, who was subsequently found guilty of murder. Riots rocked the center of the city daily. It was a moment that politicized my entire generation, and as a simple observer on the day, I remember standing on the southwest corner of Syntagma Square, taking photos of the small clashes taking place in front of the parliament building and on the surrounding streets. As a police platoon started heading my way to retreat in the narrow streets around Athens’ shopping district behind me, I noticed a dog following them, barking at the heavily armored policemen.
I didn’t know it then, but that was Loukanikos. Lore had it that he hated cops, politicians and austerity, so he took to the streets again and again to make his point. Most will say he barked but would never bite, but some riot police shins would beg to differ. He would occasionally be seen carrying away tear gas canisters in his mouth. His courage got him a spot on Time magazine’s personality of the year list in 2011.