I have known Thalia for year, she is a family friend and has been rescuing dogs for more than 20 years. She never considered herself a rescuer and never demanded any help from anyone. All she does, she does it on her own. The fact that I am able to help her rehome some of her rescues makes me very happy, and I am grateful that she can trust me to do it.
Rural Greece 2018. This is not an isolated incident, this is how everyday people solve the problem of stray, unwanted dogs. They become the judge, the jury and the executioner overnight, spreading poisoned food and death for the innocent.
I came across this story yesterday and since then I haven’t really been able to sleep – a dog was chained in a field and the shot in the head by its owner. As gruesome as it may sound, t’s not something rare or anything – stories like these are an everyday thing. But the thing about this particular story, is that it happened in the village where I spent my summer vacation last summer.
This is just an aw post. Well, not really, it can never be just about the aw when it’s about rescue 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.
Greek ridiculousness has no limits. When the corruption reaches the levels of a sub-Saharan African country (no offense), and when every government official can do whatever he wants to, simply because…he can, the innocent pay the price and the frustration reaches unprecedented levels.
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”.
Local reporters are…local reporters. I mean, nobody is expecting “Huffington Post like” articles, especially by someone who lives in an island somewhere in Greece. But there is a limit to stupidity, and the limit is one: common sense.
Burnt, poisoned, tortured, decimated… Can you really grasp the meaning of those words? Language is an amazing thing, able to capture meanings, feelings and events too complicated, and yet, the actual “essence” of some events seems to be bubbling over the word itself.
Greek animal welfare is no-kill. The way things usually work here is: you rescue a stray, you treat it and you place it in a foster home or a shelter until a forever home comes along – “until” meaning keeping it safe, healthy, well fed and taken care of for months, years or even its entire life.