Jilly Goolden and her new rescue dog from Greece
PUBLISHED: 16:58 20 April 2015 | UPDATED: 17:10 20 April 2015
Jim Holden www.jimholden.co.uk 07590 683036 01825 841157
"You've got a new Prime Minister", I told my dog recently. A bit random you may think, but I had primed her with a little lecture about the economic downturn of her homeland, during which I reassured her (she hardly needs a moment's reassurance) about how much better off she is here.
Yes, my dog is Greek by birth, but very much rural Sussex by adoption.
It’s fortunate in this country that lots of people choose to rescue abandoned dogs rather than buy a designer puppy from a breeder. In Sussex, perhaps surprisingly, a great number of those people have chosen to re-home dogs rescued from Greece. I was totally unaware of this connection when I entered my (Brighton RSPCA) Dalmatian into a fun dog show at the local village fete and discovered that a great number of her competitors spoke a different language. The class largely consisted of dogs from Greece.
When we were looking for a companion for our Dalmatian, as a family we started scanning websites in search of our perfect new rescue dog. We all had different ideas of perfect...it turned out to be a case of the tail (my daughter) wagging the dog! But finally ‘the right dog’ spoke to us all equally from the screen. She looked serene and a little sad with a lovely bashful expression. Not too big, not too small, not too hairy, nor too sleek. She was just right! Being advertised on the website of a locally-based dog homing site, I rang enthusiastically right away and was informed she wasn’t in the country yet...she was in Greece.
Undeterred, we duly went through the home check to make sure we were suitable adopters, and were told a little more about her and shown a folder of pictures. And so the process began, we said we would take her and they promised to include her in the next group of dogs being brought over for rehoming. Our first introduction was memorable, but before we met her, we had time to read up about why so many dogs were being brought to the south east for rehoming. The Greek Animal Rescue newsletter makes heart-warming and at times shocking reading. Regrettably in much of Greece, a lack of education and respect for animals is common; abuse is rife. Some dogs are mistreated, others abandoned onto the road to meet their fate, poisoned, maimed, starved or peppered with gunshot.
As I am an active supporter of rehoming charities in the UK I can understand why sometimes I am questioned “Why Greece?”, but those dogs looking for homes here have very rarely had to endure the hardships and cruelty of many of their cousins in Greece. Surely at least some of them deserve a break? Greek Animal Rescue is a 25 year old charity operating a stray sterilisation programme in Greece (where such a thing is virtually unheard of) and assisting with shelters for abandoned and mistreated dogs. The lucky ones are vaccinated, sterilised, micro-chipped, wormed and de-flead to enable them to acquire a passport to travel. My dog was one of the lucky ones.
Within EU laws, she was brought here across land with other dogs; some are flown inexpensively to Paris and travel on from there. We were told to come to meet her in a park off the M25, and duly arrived in the pouring rain, lining up with other eager adopters waiting to be introduced to ‘our’ dog. And suddenly there she was! Tail wagging, eyes sparkling, walking like an angel on the lead (much better I’m ashamed to say, than our Dalmatian). It was very definitely love at first sight!
We brought her home immediately, and although we’d been warned she wouldn’t be house trained and might need a little familiarising with the other animals and her surroundings, she jumped into ‘her’ bed with visible delight, was clean from day one, licked the cat kindly, was suitably reverent to the Dalmatian (who soon came to love and accept her) and has never looked back! I took her to dog training and she shone! Lots of Greek dogs do I understand; they are clever to have survived on the streets, and being offered the security of a home makes them instantly loyal. And we called her Kyria – Greek for lady. I had considered calling her starfish, after a (possibly Greek) parable. Very apt, but starfish is a difficult name to call. And Asterias, the Greek, is no easier... Here’s the parable:
A grandfather took his little grandson to the beach, and while old Georgio sat in the shade, little Dmitry picked up a starfish baking on the beach dehydrating in the hot sun and took it back into the water. “there are hundreds more of them where he came from” said Georgio, ” It won’t make any difference”...“Yes” said Dmitry “But to this one starfish it’ll make a very big difference”.
I’ve met loads of Greek dogs now – there’s an annual Greek dog funday held in Balcombe where they get together en masse. And they come in all shapes, sizes, colours, breeds (yes some are pure bred) and mixtures. And I have yet to come across one that doesn’t have a brilliant nature. If you’re interested in a Greek dog, you can decide in advance what sort of dog would suit you. If you said you wanted “a small-medium sized, affectionate dog, that doesn’t jump up or bark incessantly, who would enjoy short walks rather than miles a day, and would be gentle and respectful to your elderly dog” GAR would select a dog to match your needs, plus tell you other details about it, for instance if it gets on with cats, or if it will need training to walk nicely on a lead etc.
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