By Renee Maltezou
ATHENS (Reuters) - Sausage, the ginger mongrel who became famous for appearing at anti-austerity protests and barking at riot police at the height of Greece's debt crisis, has died of a heart attack, local officials said on Thursday.
The stray dog, called "Loukanikos" in Greek, became a media sensation and public darling in 2011 by regularly showing up on the side of demonstrators and yelping at police amid the chaos of teargas and flying petrol bombs.
He was named runner up for Time Magazine's "Animal of the Year" in 2011, only beaten to the top spot by the army dog that accompanied the U.S. Navy SEAL team which took down Osama Bin Laden.
"He was Greek. Like all stray animals, Loukanikos somehow reflected the restlessness of Greeks who refuse to bow down," Anna Makri, a veterinarian who heads the city's stray animal service, told Reuters. "The doctor's assessment was that he died suddenly, of a heart attack."
Sausage ended up appearing on the front page of most Greek newspapers and wagged his tail on television screens as violent anti-bailout protests raged behind him.
Makri said a Greek animal welfare group took Sausage in about two years ago.
The leftist Avgi newspaper said that he had been buried under a tree on a hill in the city center.
Stray dogs are a common sight in Athens. Most are monitored by city authorities and wear collars and tags with a phone number to call if they are in - or causing - trouble.
(Editing by Deepa Babington and Andrew Heavens)