Bobby, Minnie, Gamma, Alpha... these are only a few names of the lucky dogs who have found a home abroad in the past few years. The actual number of dogs is over 50 that have found a home with my personal help and there may be many more that visitors to the island have found, fallen in love with and taken back with them without any assistance.
My help includes keeping a dog at my house for as long as it takes to do all of the following: treating it against parasites, taking it to the vet for examinations and vaccinations, sending pictures and appropriate descriptions to a re-homing website abroad, answering emails and finding the best possible home for each dog. Last, but not least, I have to organize transportation to the new home. This could mean taking care of a dog or a litter for as much as three months, sometimes even longer.
Unfortunately, unwanted dogs often end up on the street without a home, regular feeding times or a kind word. That is, if they are lucky... they might also find themselves under a bridge in a remote area, with their legs wired together, like Boney, the latest addition to my personal zoo. But that was not where he ended... he was lucky or strong - or both. We can only guess at what must have happened to him: the wire marks on one of his hind legs seem to indicate that his legs were wired together. There were no wire marks on his other leg, because it was half gone, with part of his bone sticking out. How he lost the leg is left to our imagination. I tend to think that the wire was tied so tight that it just withered away.
Boney survived and got used to his new environment, I guess: two quiet riverbeds with their shady tunnels under the busy bridge (at least in summer) near Glyfa Beach in the south of the island, with the company of a dozen or more dog skeletons and skulls. The day my mother drove past this place in mid July on her way to pick up yet another puppy, we had something like a heat wave, but it was already seven thirty and Boney's guardian angel must have been smiling over him because he had just come up to the road, probably to go and have a drink of water or find some food somewhere. My mother had three children in the car with her who started crying at the sight of him. They stopped and tried to catch him, but he was frightened and limped away on his three sound legs, a white male with black spots, just skin and bones.
Next day we went back with water and food, spiced with a tranquilizer. We only saw him disappear in the riverbed and didn't want to frighten him too much. Back at five: the food was untouched, the dog out of sight. After the beach we returned and saw that the food was gone.
But obviously there hadn't been enough tranquilizer - he was still on his legs. We got very close to him and had him cornered, but I didn't dare to grab him because I had no idea how he would react. We left, disappointed, when it got dark. Early next morning we went back with more water, food and a double ration of tranquilizers. And then, finally, after lunch, we - Ursula, Lara, Tama and Annamarie (who had also come this time and proved to be the bravest) - were able to get hold of him and got the local veterinarian Antonis Lambrou to wait for us until we got there at 2:30pm.
He told us that the leg injury was not very recent (maybe even as much as two months old) and that the leg would have to be amputated. We took him to my house, where he spent the next three days in a quiet room to get some strength back before the operation. On the second day this incredible dog was already greeting me with a wagging tail! He had his operation two days later and is now back on his three legs. Whether he will spend his 'second life' in Switzerland with my 12-year-old niece Lara - who was with us every time we visited the riverbed and who grew very attached to him - or whether he will stay with me is not decided yet. But one thing we know for sure: it will be better than his first one.
The fact that many unwanted animals are not killed, but left or tied up somewhere to die slowly is very sad. We can only hope that this horrid custom will soon see its last days. In the meantime, we can try to check notorious places on a regular basis, e.g. under bridges, in dry riverbeds, etc.
But let me take you back to the story of Bobby: he was picked up recently one evening by one of the island's tireless dog-savers (Annamarie), a six-month old pup with close to a hundred ticks on him. A few days later I had photographed him with my digital camera and published him on a Swiss website that helps in finding homes for unwanted animals. Just two weeks later in a village in Germany, he drove off with his new owners in a Audi Cabriolet! But the car is not what counts, they are also a very kind couple who have already grown very attached to him. With him everything happened very fast because my puppy-transport to Switzerland had already been scheduled for about ten days after he was found.
Together with Christoph Beiner, who has been my driver on my recent dog-expeditions, I left Paros on 16th June with nine pups. Some had found homes in Germany, some in Switzerland. Nikos Polos very generously donated the tickets to Piraeus and back, car and passengers, as he has been doing for our past three dog transports to Athens and the airport since last December when I actively started to organize transports instead of waiting for the odd occasion when someone would take a dog along. On these four occasions since last December, 29 dogs have left Paros for their new homes! Most of them were puppies, but some were a bit older and had already spent a summer, or part of one, on the street. The puppies had all either been abandoned or came from street dogs that for one reason or another could not be sterilized before, but all four of these mothers have been operated on now with the help of PAWS in the meantime.
This last time in June, instead of flying them out by plane, we took the car and drove to Germany via Ancona. It was a very busy three days for us, cleaning up after nine dogs, driving 2,000 kilometres, meeting most of the new owners - but everything went well. Even when the door of an elevator on the ferry closed with two tiny pups still inside and the person holding their lead already outside and the elevator took off, the doggies remained miraculously unharmed. The incident didn't cost them their lives, as I feared in the first shock, it only cost me some nerves!
Now, over a month later, all the doggies have adapted very well to their new surroundings. Their new owners send emails and tell me about their development. From the photographs they attach I can see how well the pups are.
One day I hope the dog situation will get better on this island. But I will never again end up with 12 puppies in my garden - like I did between April and June this year. If you don't know what a moonscape looks like - I have one at home now! ******************************************************
PAWS Update - Committee Meeting 2.7.02
* The orders have gone in for our new flier/membership form and the presses are rolling out our collection box stickers. We bought out the local supplier of boxes and more are coming from the mainland, so we will soon be able to start approaching hotels, shops and agencies to boost our income.
* Our next bazaar will be in the Autumn (Octoberish), so please start putting aside those unwanted pieces of clothing, household items, jewellery, books, cars(!) etc.
* We finally gave up trying to find a bank account that would provide details of who gave what in direct payments. We will encourage gifts and membership fees by cheque and cash and hope that those who pay direct will either contact us or else realise why they have been un-thanked.
* We badly need blankets, sheets, towels and/or woollens suitable to make bedding for our furries.
* What we have put right at the top of our Christmas list is a piece of land or unused building away from neighbours, to rent or buy for a pittance. We could then get a rolling sterilisation programme running and have somewhere for our team of volunteers to visit the post-op patients as they recover. Does anyone know just the right place? Would anyone give or lease us what we are looking for?
* We have been offered a very large quantity of tinned and dried animal food if we can find an economical means of transporting it from Munich. Anyone willing to bring some or with transport connections please contact Lornie on 0973-620525 at least 4 weeks in advance to arrange collection. this food will not survive the winter freeze but could help some strays to do so.
PAWS annual membership dues are 30 Euro for regular members, 15 Euro for guest members. Send to PO Box 14, Parikia, or pay directly into the PAWS bank account at the Alpha Bank - account no. 625-002101-053610 and call one of the names below to give us your name, address and tel no.