Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Clare's stay in Greece 2016- Part 3

GAWF blog 21st June 2016

The weather is now proper ‘summer weather’ with day time temperatures around 30 degrees and evenings so warm and comfortable.

We’ve been to our friend Hayley’s house several times for play dates with her dogs.  They fly around the garden after each other, always with Dexter in the lead, saying ‘Catch me, catch me!’ It’s like watching a game of rugby, the aim being for Dexter to dodge each of Hayley’s three dogs as he makes his way from one side of the garden to the other, before he gets ‘tackled’.  It’s great to watch and to see them use all that energy. Poppy just stands on the side line, barking with excitement, or is she telling them off?  I’m never quite sure.

My friend Sarah arrived and we spent four days relaxing at the house, walking the dogs, taking them in the sea (neither too keen, but I do believe they appreciate feeling cool for at least half an hour after), chatting and enjoying the fantastic Kefalonian cuisine.  One of my favourite tavernas is Acqua at tiny Alaties beach.  It’s a basic seaside taverna, but with the best sunset view and a peach bellini to die for.  We agree being here is close to paradise.

I’ve noticed several dogs on chains as usual, although none on short chains, which I’m relieved about.  They all seem to have a good 20 foot circumference to move around in and so they are able to go in the shade if they need to.  I still don’t like to see it, but it’s better than being horribly restricted like I’ve seen so many times.   The law now says that it’s illegal to keep a dog chained up 24 hours a day.  I think it would take a caring neighbour or tourist to take note if this was the case and report it to the police.  Of course the owner could say that it has been let off the chain at some point in the day but there will never be any proof.  But at least a visit from the police reminding them of the legal position may prompt them to do something about it.  I understood from my visit to the rescue centre last year that the police actively get involved in animal welfare issues and this is so reassuring to hear.

The day Sarah flew home from Kefalonia airport, we visited ARK (Animal Rescue Kefalonia) on our way to the airport.  We had the rugs and blankets I’d brought with me in the car and we stopped off to buy some big bags of dog food for them.  The noise of the dogs barking when you arrive is deafening.  We saw Marina the lady who runs the rescue centre and talked to her about what is happening there.  They currently have 360 dogs which is a similar number to last year.  She said the adoption rate is good (and I see the posts on Facebook about the adoptions) but of course dogs are arriving or being rescued and brought in at around the same rate, so the numbers don’t change much.  Marina and her Dutch volunteer, Joyce, talked about the police and how they are getting involved in investigations and prosecutions which is so good to hear.

As always, Marina asked if I would like to take one, but I know I can’t manage more than two dogs.  One day, when the inevitable happens with Poppy (who celebrated her 11th birthday two weeks ago) I will take on another Greek rescue at that point.  But now is not the right time.

My friend Sarah knows she will adopt a dog when the time is right for her (she already has one, plus a daughter and a thriving business) and she knows she will come to ARK when the time comes.

We saw Winston, a lovely little hunting dog, who had been severely abused and thankfully rescued by ARK last summer when I was here on the island.  He had been set alight by a local man with severe mental disabilities (and who is now in a mental institution or a prison, I am not sure which).  He still bears the physical scars on his back but he is so happy to see you and wags his tail like mad.  It’s very emotional to watch him and to know what he’s been through in his short life.  I feel so relieved that there are charities like ARK who are there to look after and protect these poor souls.  I wonder why he hasn’t been adopted, but I know that personally if he belonged to me, I might find it very hard to be reminded of what he went through every time I saw him and his scars.  And so I wonder if this is the reason.

After many tears and goodbyes, we left the centre and headed to the airport.  The next few days will be spent doing some work after a break of a few days and awaiting my next (and last) friend to arrive next week.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Clare's stay in Greece 2016- Part 2

I’m loving my time here on Kefalonia.  Once again, I don’t ever feel lonely and have been bumping into Greek friends who I met last year.  The resident population is very low, so the only people you see are people who you know or remember from last year!  Nothing changes very much, but I like that.

Claire, the owner from my rental house last year, Stamatis from the local mini-market, Nikos and Christiana and their lovely family at the local taverna, Tattiana the excellent Russian seamstress and other taverna owners.  They all remember me, but suspect it’s the two dogs they actually remember.  And of course, dogs on leads are quite noticeable here as there aren’t many on leads!

I had a visit from my friend Astrid from the neighbouring island of Ithaki for the day one day.  She adopted Dexter when he was 11 months old.  Unfortunately, Dexter couldn’t cope with the presence of her husband, which is the point when the rescue centre really understood how bad his fear of men was.  Their house, although beautiful and remote, is small and I suspect that the physical closeness of Frank didn’t help matters.  After a month or so, they reluctantly had to return him to the rescue centre on Aegina.  By this time, they had fallen in love with him, so it was a hard decision for both of them.  But Dexter was clearly stressed and they felt that it wasn’t good for his wellbeing or his recovery from his past.  At that point, he went to stay with Gaby who works with the rescue centre in Aegina, in her foster home.  Here he was happy, playing with his 15 house mates all day and loved by Gaby.  After a period of some 9 months, I came along and adopted him and the rest is history.  Although he’s still nervous of men, he is greatly improved from three years ago when he arrived.  Every man he’s met since has treated him well, so his trust is slowly growing.  Dogs are not that different to humans in many ways!

My friend Teresa from the UK arrived and we had four days together, celebrating both our birthdays and enjoying the weather and good food.  The day after she left, I was walking Poppy and Dexter in the woods near the bay in Fiskardo, when Poppy was attacked by a dog which was being walked by its owner’s parents.  As anyone who’s dog has been attacked knows, it’s a truly awful thing to witness.  The husband reacted quickly and pulled the dog off and was very responsive to what had happened and offered to pay any necessary vet’s bills.  Poppy was extremely shaken up, her eyes bulging with fear and shaking all over but there were no obvious wounds to see.  We agreed that they would go ahead on the walk and with confirmation from the husband that they would finish the walk on the lead, we turned the corner, to see the dog off the lead.  She saw Poppy and attacked her once again.  I was astounded at the stupidity and apparent lack of care they displayed by doing this. 

The next day, when Poppy allowed me to examine her carefully (she growled that night when I tried to look, so obviously was in pain), I saw several small bite wounds.  After much research on the internet, it was clear that any sort of bit wound can result in infection, so I did the one hour drive to the nearest vet in Sami.  She was given an antibiotic injection and some painkillers.  The bill was 20 euros (always cheap in Greece).  I wonder if the low price is partly due to vets keeping prices as low as possible to encourage Greek people to use them to treat their animals. With the Greek economy as it is, a lot of people have even less money than they did before, so high vets bills would often be out of the question.

She is recovering well, though very clingy for a few days.  I have become nervous of walking the dogs and realise that dogs here are often free to roam on their own from their homes, and whilst most of them are well-behaved dogs, I’m aware of two or three which are not and I am making sure that I avoid those areas.  The attitude from dog owners in Greece is generally less responsible than it is in the UK (although many people are very responsible), and this does not help the anxiety around dog attacks.  However, I’ve now armed myself with an arsenal of weaponry; stones in a water bottle for shaking and making a loud noise, water for throwing over a dog and citronella spray to spray at a dog if necessary.

My next visitor is my friend Sarah, who arrives in a few days.  She gave me several blankets to bring with me in my car, to give to the animal rescue centre, ARK, in Argostoli, the capital of the island.  We’ll visit together and take the blankets, along with some of mine.  It’s hard to imagine in these temperatures, that they actually need blankets and anything to help keep the dogs warm in the winter, but they do!  A visit to the centre is always a stark reminder of the crisis for animals in Greece; dogs and cats abandoned by their owners (unwanted for various reasons), animals who need medical care rescued from the streets and animals rescued from abusive situations.  It will be good to visit again, and find out how some of the dogs we met last year have got on and which have been lucky enough to find themselves adopted by kind people and are in their ‘forever homes’.

I will be writing again next week, but in the meantime will continue with the daily routine of a beautiful walk along many of the walking trails, my work, reading in the sun and enjoying the excellent food.