Ode To Lesvos is a short film by Johnnie Walker Storyline, championing the stories of the people of the Greek island whose positive attitudes and action are helping bring about a better tomorrow. The people of the island have seen thousands of refugees come and go over the past years, and their humanity and positivism towards the refugee crisis is definitely worth an “ode”.
I was at the vet the other day with one of my foster dogs, and as I was going through magazines in the waiting room, I stumbled upon an article dedicated to the film and the people of the island. But here is what happens when you are a dog rescuer in Greece: even the word “Lesvos” brings a shiver down your spine, because most of us know the island through a Facebook page of volunteers, dedicated to saving the island’s “barrel dogs” and bringing awareness to the issue.
If you are wondering what a barrel dog is, well, it exactly what it sounds: a dog chained next to a barrel (or a self made dog house) in the middle of nowhere. The images speak for themselves, so I don’t need to describe a barrel dog’s everyday life. One thing is for sure, barrel dogs spend their entire lives there, and they are probably the biggest “thorn” in Greek animal welfare.
Keeping a barrel dog might look like pure sadism, but it is supposed to serve a purpose. Chained throughout their lives, given minimal (if any) food and water, receiving no veterinary care and, usually, having a barrel as their “shelter” (thus their nickname) they serve as ‘living scarecrows’, scaring the wandering herds of sheep and goats off the unenclosed plantations. They are not a special breed- any dog can end up in chains. Greek Law 4039/2012 clearly forbids this kind of treatment, yet many dog owners continue this horrible practice.
Lesvos is not the only place in Greece where barrel dogs are used as living scarecrows, but it is the only place that has a rescue group dedicated to saving them. I think that you have realized by now why stumbling upon that article praising the empathy and the solidarity of the inhabitants seriously pissed me off.
I am not trying to demean their help to the refugees and the humanity they have shown towards them, but those people have a lot to learn. Because if you lack respect for EVERY living being out there, whether two legged or four legged one, you barely deserve an ode. If you can offer your home for a refugee to sleep in while at the same time you keep a creature tied for 10 or more years, in the middle of nowhere, you are only half-human. This is what I think, and since the residents deserve their “ode”, so do the barrel “scarecrows”, condemned to live a horrible, miserable and long life of sorrow and abuse.
If you want to learn more about how to help the island’s barrel dog, you can contact the group’s Facebook page.
And if you are visiting Greece, while you go from one beach to another, keep in mind that up on those dry, brown mountains, there are souls like the ones in the photos, living a life worse than you could ever imagine.