Puppies wrapped in plastic bags and thrown in the garbage is such a common thing here, that every time there is a post about a new litter found dead or moribund in a garbage bin, most of us are like: “oh, well, another one”.
I am not joking. It has been the main way of population control since forever, happening everywhere around Greece, from south to north, from east to west, from the islands all the way into the mainland.
Basically what happens is this: you have female dog, it mates, it gives birth, you take the litter, put it in a plastic bag and throw it in the garbage or drown them in the sea (or the river or the lake). It is as simple as that.
You might think that the people performing these gruesome acts are monsters, but they aren’t – and the fact that they are not monstrous evil beings is even creepier.
The kind old man that you ask for directions to the next picturesque village probably does it. The traditional, sweet woman dressed in black, that serves you homemade cookies probably does it. Someone’s beloved grandfather does it. Someone’s adorable grandmother does it. Everyone does it.
Well, ok not everyone. But potentially, it could be everyone. This is what they know, this is what they have been doing for years, this is their everyday life. Some of them may not even realize how obscene and outrageous such an act can possibly sound to you and me.
There’s a lady in her seventies near our cottage, in a small village somewhere in western Greece. She is one of the most kindhearted people I know, a very good neighbor to my uncles, a person to trust and to rely on. She has a tiny female dog running around outside her house. She loves that dog – well, she loves it her way.
We were there last year. She offered us coffee and a desert and we had a chat. She was so happy to have us around. We started talking about dogs, about what I do and about her own dog. What happens is this: her dog gives birth every year, the puppies are never really vaccinated or anything, they just wander around, some die of diseases, some are run over by cars, some are given away to…anyone who will have them (go figure).
When I told her that it’s not logical that she allows her dog to give birth every year, and that there is no need for more puppies to be brought to the world, she looked at me and said: “well, I can’t suffocate them, I feel bad”.
What’s amazing about her response, is that the only other option in her mind, besides just letting them be and “if they survive, they survive”, was to suffocate them. Probably everyone around her in the village does when their dogs give birth, and she grew up being used to that practice. It’s just that she is too nice to do it.
When I told her about neutering the dog, I don’t think she even realized what I actually meant. She probably doesn’t know that something like this is even possible.
Lately there has been a lot of talk about re-focusing TNR on pet dogs – pet dogs like the one this lady has. Basically this is where strays come from. Going around in villages, door to door, explaining people that their dog will be removed from them for one day, and after it comes back, it simply won’t give birth ever again, is probably what needs to be done.
These people are not in social media, they are never in contact with people with a different mentality, they will never realize what they are doing, and there is absolutely no control over their actions. Offering sterilization for “pet dogs” living in such conditions, in rural Greece might be the only solution – because education will take decades, and we can’t afford it. Until then, every time we pass by a garbage bin, we will be approaching and listening carefully, because wining (or meowing) from the inside of them is more common than you can possibly imagine.