It was after midnight back in July 2014. I was volunteering in Ilioupolis animal Welfare Union back then, and that night we were chatting with some fellow volunteers when one of them posted about a German Shepherd just abandoned up on the mountain. According to the guard working the night shift in the municipality’s garage, a car appeared out of nowhere, dropped off a neglected dog and just left. The guard called a volunteer and she notified the rest of us.
I arrived there a few minutes later. It was pitch black. I could barely see the dog tied to a tree. She was crying and looked so confused and disorientated. I called the cops, who arrived about half an hour later, treated me as if I was wasting their time and tried to convince me that instead of doing what I do, I should get a boyfriend and spend the night with him. I replied something like: “Thanks for nothing, I have a boyfriend already” and tried my best to be polite while they were looking at me as if I was an alien or something.
I took the dog back home with me. I live on the fourth floor so we took the elevator. It was the first time she saw herself in the mirror and she panicked. She started barking at her reflection and I never managed to calm her down. She smelled as if she had been sleeping in her feces her entire life. Her claws were the larger I had ever seen in a dog and her body was covered in wounds.
Apart from herself in the mirror, she had probably never met a dog before in her life. She was the least socialized dog I ever had to foster. Every time she saw a dog she would bark, growl and go crazy as if her life was threatened. I have no idea where her previous owner kept her, but she had to be introduced to a lot of things from the beginning. She knew nothing about nothing.
Her blood tests came back and –of course- she suffered from leishmaniasis. Leishmania is a parasite affecting the blood and is transmitted to dogs by infected sandflies. It is a fatal disease if left untreated and in Greece it is like an epidemic. One out of two dogs rescued from the streets is affected, but she was not a stray. Someone owned this gorgeous animal and never even bothered to use an antiparasitic product so that she wouldn’t get infected. As her being sick became more than obvious (claws growing at a very fast rate and open wounds that never heal are basic symptoms), he just left her on the mountain so that someone else would clean up after all the mess.
We named her Alma and I fostered her for about twenty days. I don’t know how does this particular dog’s brain work, but she made such a progress that I watched her evolve every day before my eyes and I still can’t believe it. In no time she learned to socialize and get along with other dogs, she would let me give her daily injections without even blinking, she mastered basic commands and would even obey my ten year old niece as if she was her owner and it took me about one day to house train her. It was like someone had swapped dogs – the dog I was fostering was not the one I had picked from the mountain just a few weeks earlier.
Alma was adopted that same summer by an amazing couple. I know they fell in love with her since the first time they saw a picture of her laying in the ground having my niece pet her – among other things, she was (still is) the most photogenic dog I ever met. I know they didn’t believe me when I kept telling them over and over how well behaved Alma is, how it will not feel like getting a new dog, but more like adopting a dog that always lived with them. And this is what actually happened.
It’s been about a year and a half since Alma lives with George and Aspa. Every time they post something about her, I kiss the computer screen over and over. They refer to her as “the child” and she spends her days living like a spoilt princess. I could go on forever, but I guess the photos speak better than I do. Her mum asked me to mention how travelled her little girl is, so I guess I have to do it: Alma is a very travelled dog!
I’ve spent too much time and energy loathing the man who abandoned her and wishing the worst for him, but today, almost two years later, I can only thank him. Abandoning her on the mountain that night was probably the best thing that had ever happened to Alma until then. He gave her the best present ever, and for that I am grateful – and so are her parents. So, my most hated, heartless, mean person on the planet: THANKS.