Dog rescue for us living in the city is tough, but for the volunteers in rural Greece seems almost impossible. I always admired the rescuers there, constantly fighting against things we take for granted, trapped in societies that seem to be dating back to the 50s.
Sometimes, the more beautiful the place, the more tough life is for the animals. Mani for me is one of Greece’s most gorgeous areas. It is dry, rough, wild. Driving around from one village to another makes you feel like you are a visitor in Westworld.
Among the dry mountains and the grayish olive trees, the traditional stone towers and houses makes you realize that those people, who chose to inhabit this hostile place, were obliged to survive with such limited resources, that they had no other option but become hardened, like the rocks that surround them.
Trapped among those dry mountains and the big blue, Mani gives you no other choice but to fall madly in love. And if you are an animal lover, you find yourself loving it and hating it and wanting to make it better and constantly asking yourself: why? Why did I have to come through here? It’s like being in love with someone you know is wrong for you, and the more he hurts you, the more you want to make him a better person, so you are trapped in a vicious circle with no way out.
In Mani there is no vet. And there is no vet because there is no need for one. The dogs are expendable, used for hunting or for serving as barrel dogs, condemned to spend their entire lives chained, feeding off bread and leftovers every two days.
The births are uncontrollable, and the puppies that are no good are disposed off or abandoned up on the mountains – those mountains where there is not even a single drop of running water anywhere. The hunting dogs who don’t do their jobs well have the same fate. The guard dogs who don’t do their jobs well also.
And the result is a huge number of stray dogs everywhere. Expendable stray dogs that simply won’t be there the next year. Rescuing in Mani seems almost impossible. Which one to rescue first? Which to leave behind? How can you help when the nearest vet is an hour and a half away? How to educate people, when you live in a society where the dogs are considered objects?
The local charity is composed by three-four women who care for more than 200 dogs. Do you know what this means? The limited funds they get from the municipality are not enough, they all have jobs, homes and families. And at the same time they need to be there, every day, at the shelter, to clean up, and feed and care for about 150 dogs. And then they need to drive around, from one village to another, and feed and pet and care for the stray colonies they monitor. Every single day.
As we were driving down the road to the shelter that day, in the middle of nowhere, up on one of those dry, harsh mountains, about 20-30 dogs came running towards the car, with their tails wagging and huge smiles on their beautiful mix-breed faces. The volunteers there are all these animals have. They are their family, their pack, their safety net. I needed to stop for a moment and breathe.
Being a volunteer there is a huge, life changing decision. You decide to split your heart into 200 small pieces, and give it away every single day to each and every one of them, because this is all they get. A tiny, little piece of someone’s heart, a couple of minutes of love, a gentle touch every morning, and nothing else. And it’s what makes them happy and what gives them a purpose in life.
I spent a day and a half in Mani, and came back with one dog. Just one, Bonnie. A piece of my heart was left behind, in the shelter, and on the streets of Mani, with those dogs. I have no idea what life for them would be like, if it weren’t for those women there. From what I saw, they are doing everything they can, and more. If you wish to help them in any way, you can visit their Facebook page HERE.