So why are many people so determined to ‘save’ and nurture healthy, happy stray dogs? In my opinion it’s sometimes to fulfil a need in them. Some people need to feel worthy, as if they’re making a difference, or just caring for something- me included! What I’ve learned from observing and learning from the friends I have here is to question your intention first, really ask yourself ‘ What would make this dog happy? Does this dog really need some human intervention, or am I just doing it for me?’
On my previous trip to Kalamaki I had just that dilemma. I came across a litter of 4 puppies with their mum who were older than when puppies are usually first spotted. They had made their den in the field nearby and hadn’t been spotted until they were about 5 months old. For days I was going morning and evening to feed and water them and trying to build some trust between the mother and me with a hope to capturing them at some stage for sterilisation. Then one very wet, cold morning I found them hunkered down in the long grass, trying to shelter from the storms. As I approached, 3 of the puppies began to move away but one was curled up wet and shivering, deep in the grass. In an instinct I knew this puppy was the smallest and was not coping well, so I threw my towel over her and scooped her up. Air snapping and frightened, I put her in my car. I had in a split second followed my instinct to give this puppy a chance of life in the view to finding her a home. Although I had left her mum and litter mates, I knew that she was the weakest and would possibly not have survived living as a stray and the others were old and strong enough to survive. That puppy was Thea, who I brought back to Dog Trouble in the view to finding her a home.
It is always a question I ask myself when I see dogs on the island -is this a true street dog, who is strong and happy living on the streets or would this dog be happier in a home?
Only instinct gives you the answer, together with observing a dogs behaviour and personality. If they are strong and independent then chances are they would be happy carrying on as they are, following sterilisation to prevent more puppies from being born on the streets!
Why do I have such an affinity with the island of Zakynthos? The answer is simple, because it brings me back to nature, it grounds me. Sitting in a field, morning and evening, gradually gaining the trust of a mother and her puppies. Observing the body language and behaviour that is pure animal-dog. The mother slowly appearing from the hedgerow at the smell of a 1 euro tin of dog food, served up on a reused plastic food lid! Tail low, head low, a few steps forward hesitant to trust, looking sideways, a nervous wag of her tail, licking of her lips, eyes wide. An empty frantic bark coming from where she appeared, a head pops out then just as quickly retracts back along with a few backward steps. Responding to the apprehension coming from the hedgerow, I take a few steps back until I’ve given enough space for the puppies to appear. First, with tail bolt upright and a bold stance comes a caramel coloured almost Norfolk terrier type- the most confident of the litter. Next a tan and white smooth coated slightly less confident puppy, still with tail up but more focused on checking a few times for safety before gulping down the food! Lastly, two again scruffy caramel fluff balls, this time scurrying out, then in, grabbing one mouthful at a time, tail tucked right under, head low, giving a low grumble as they notice me, standing watching from afar.
Compared to the busy, fast flowing life back home, in that moment, in a field, it’s simple compared to the ‘human world’. With no words spoken just body language and calm energy between us, we are displaying honesty…..building trust….and gaining respect for each other- Values that seem to be slipping away in the human world but yet are constant in a dogs life.
If you wish to support the sterilisation of stray dogs in Kalamaki please go to Kalamaki Dog Aid