For thousands of years, we have been “making” dogs just as we want them to be, in order to serve us. Whether for hunting, guarding and protecting, retrieving, rescuing, finding bombs, drugs and lost people or even just keeping our laps warm, dogs were initially domesticated – I guess- to serve a purpose.
When I first met Pela, I already had two dogs and absolutely no intention of adopting a third one, because it would make fostering too difficult. The moment I laid eyes on her, I fell in love, madly in love.
Fact: Abusers of animals are five times as likely to harm humans. Fact: Animal abuse is often the first visible sign a family is in trouble. Fact: Many victims entering shelters report that their abuser has hurt, killed, or threatened family animals.
The lonely dogs of the endless Greek summer are the ones we see every day on the beach, playing with the waves, discreetly asking for a place to belong, at least for a couple of hours. They are the ones who were abandoned there, or simply ended up on the beach, because they needed to be around people, and that is where people are in the summer.
The lonely summer dogs look happy. They are surrounded by a scenery that could not be more beautiful, more poetic – at least for a couple of months. The lonely summer dogs look like they belong there. They look free, happy. Who doesn’t look free and happy on a beach?
The truth is that for the summer months, those dogs are really happy. They are where they belong – they are among us. Groups of people come and go, some might pet them, some might feed them and photograph them playing in the sand, generously offering Kodak moments for their facebook friends.
for the summer months, those dogs are really happy
The typical lonely summer dog feels like he belongs with every new group that comes to the beach. For a few hours, he is safe. And when that group leaves, there will be another one, and another, and another, until at some point, the last group of people will leave and the next one will never show up, because the summer just ended.
Unless you have visited touristic places in wintertime, you can’t fully comprehend the loneliness, the emptiness and the sadness that fall over them like a thick, heavy cloud. Most of us have a tendency to believe that somewhere around those beaches there must be some kind of “life” during winter, but there isn’t.
at some point, the last group of people will leave and the next one will never show up, because the summer just ended
And let’s be frank, the lonely summer dog looks happy because you are there to feed and pet him. But rural Greece is one of the most cruel places to live in, if you are a dog. After the beach bars are closed and the few restaurants in the village that work during winter move their tables indoors, the dog you fed, petted and photographed is bound to starve. And he will starve to the point where he will do anything to find something to satisfy his hunger, which will make him annoying for the locals. And an annoying stray dog usually dies a horrible death, having his inside torn apart by broken glasses carefully hidden in a burger.
the lonely summer dog looks happy because you are there to feed and pet him
Most summer dogs are young animals, and this is their first and last summer. If you visit the same place next summer, and ask around for your favorite dog from last year, you won’t really get a specific answer. Have you seen Hangover 2? Do you remember the answer they were getting every time they asked around for their lost friend? “Bangkok got him”. It’s the same thing with the strays. “The village got him” and you will never see him again.
The next summer, you won’t be seeing the same strays you remember from last year, in that picturesque village you spent your vacation in. The village got them, and it’s as simple as that. They were poisoned, ran over, starved or deliberately killed by ways you can’t even imagine. There will be new stays, all young dogs, coming from the never neutered nor spayed “pet” dogs of the ruthless Greek countryside. They too will appear happy, healthy, and free. And so will the ones next year, and the next and the next.
The village got them, and it’s as simple as that
No matter what the locals tell you, no matter how your friends call you a weirdo, no matter what you want to believe about the lonely summer dog who shares the beach with you, the reality s one: you either take him home with you, or you leave him there to die.
My summer rescue for last year was Blue. I knew exactly where I rescued her from. I rescued her from my hometown, that I visit every summer. And every summer, in my hometown, the previous summer’s strays are not there. My summer rescue for this year was Lou, not from my hometown, but from a similar place. All villages look alike in Greece. All strays have the same fate, and that’s a fact, it’s not something I just came up with.
the reality s one: you either take him home with you, or you leave him there to die
If you asked Lou what he preferred, to stay on the beach or to be dragged to my car and taken away, he would choose the beach. But Lou could never comprehend the future, I can. And his future there was nothing something that would allow me to sleep at nights. I spent ten days on the beach with him, I petted him, I fed him, I loved him, and I want him to have a long and happy life.
The bottom line is, if you meet and love one of those lonely dogs, take them with you when you leave. They might not look that much in need while you are there, but trust me, they will be once you are gone.
*Lou is now in Athens and he will be up for adoption by SCARS.
In one of the thousands of shares that my Petra’s story has received around the world (“The dog that turned to stone”), there was one in an Australian page where a woman’s comment is still haunting me after one year.
I could say that the Penny Marathon is just another animal welfare non-profit organization, but it’s a lot more. The Penny Marathon is a chance for all of us to go out there once a year, among the public, and speak for all companion animals that keep waiting in shelter kennels or out on the streets – waiting for a chance.
The rescue story you would not watch is the one that will not have a shocking thumbnail that will make you go “wow”. It will not have a dramatic title, in capital letters and exclamation marks. It will not contain shocking words like “mange”, “neglect” and “starved”.