Sometimes when the weather is cloudy it is difficult to discern what is exactly behind those clouds. Clouds have a way of obscuring what needs to be brought to light but often cannot. Such have been the past few days, and I have found myself wandering among strange places, not knowing my precise location, helpless. For last week I heard of a dog who needed to be rescued… And I offered him a place to stay until he could find a permanent home.
There is a tiny niche here in Athens, composed of people who hate to see animals suffer, and who tend to them, offer them some sort of shelter and food. No one pays them, of course, to do these things. It’s an instinctual response to suffering—especially that kind of suffering that comes from the hands of humans toward animals. Now we all know how capable humans are when it comes to treating one another, how humane we are towards our brothers and sisters… But animals… Why? Why do some humans treat animals with spite and hatred? What have they done to warrant such a response?
Zephira who rescued three dogs had found them beaten and abused and starving. It took the dogs over 2 years to recover. Today they are beautiful, loving and gentle creatures. Because of Zephira. Because of the kindness and affection and nurturing she has shown them. If only humans treated children the way she treats her animals… We would be proud to call ourselves by that name. But most do not. And along with abandoned animals are children mixed in as well. And these thoughts are troubling.
When Nikos first showed me a picture of a dog who had been mauled by other dogs in the shelter outside of Athens in the woods, he had a peculiar-looking face, and I searched for the right name for him. Turns out he simply is not photogenic. You should see him in person! So handsome. And smart. And polite. And disciplined. He is irresistible! But before I had seen him in person, the picture I saw of him was comical. He looked as though he had a bulbous nose on the tip of his snout, and well, kind of silly. And so I named Aristophanes, because he made laugh.
Not more than 18 months old, Aristophanes had been living with a pack of other rescued dogs, left to their own resources during the day and night, except for the feeding times when Nikos and Maria visited them, and spent some time with them, playing and socializing them. Now why the other dogs turned on Aristophanes is a bit of a mystery. But we suspect it had to do with establishing dominance, and Aristophanes was eager to show his virility, which the other dogs, all male, apparently did not appreciate. This is part of their nature, of course, to establish dominance and control of the pack. For these animals don’t claim any intellectual honors for themselves. They go by their instincts alone.
Anyway, after a trip to a veterinarian in Agia Paraskevi, who is drawn to abandoned animals and helps those who help them by significantly reducing his fees, Aristophanes was shaved, for he had a beautiful coat but it was difficult to determine the extent of his injuries, neutered, his left ear was stitched, and placed on antibiotics, and he now lives with me. And what a fine companion he is! Highly intelligent, he learns at the speed of lightening, and never intrudes on your space, but watches and learns from your behavior and responds accordingly—a role model worth noting by humans. I fell in love with him instantly.
But on our return trip from the vet Nikos said, “Wait and see. Now with all the problems we have here in Greece, the streets will be flooded with dogs again, abandoned by those who can no longer afford them—” (Besides those who simply abandon them when they are done playing with them.) “Do you know what the wages are of someone entering the workforce today?” he said to me. “500 Euros a month.” Let’s see now. What can 500 Euros per month buy you? Maybe an apartment? If you’re lucky. But most likely not. Probably enough food to survive. Besides expenses associated with working—clothing, transportation, etc. That’s about it.
And so Greece continues to be one of the poorer nations, while others—the other dogs—attempt to profit from her poverty.