Monday, 29 June 2015

Clare's stay in Greece - Part five

It’s my final week in Kefalonia and my mind set has changed – I no longer feel I have ‘a future’ on the island as I’m now counting down the days.  Having said this, I’m determined to make the most of the last week and try and enjoy my time as I have done over the preceding weeks.  But I know I can come back and do the same again next year and this cheers me up! As the six weeks has gone so fast I’ve decided to come for eight weeks next time.  With this in mind, and the cost involved, I know I need to find a house which is smaller and without the pool!  The pool’s been lovely but haven’t used it that much, preferring to spend time on the beautiful beaches where the dogs can easily get into the water to cool down.   I’ve been looking at houses on the internet and even been to see a couple so the ball is rolling!

There has been a traffic diversion in place on the island during my stay.  There was a large earthquake on the island in January 2014 which damaged part of the coastal road on the west side of the island, making it dangerous to use.  Whilst the authorities discuss and debate in true Greek form the best way around the problem, the diversion  remains in place which means that a wide circuitous route must be take around the east side of the island to get from one end of the island to the other.  The diversion takes you through some beautiful countryside and allows staggering views across the sea to Ithaki, its neighbouring island, but does add a considerable amount of time and mileage to the journey.  So, everyone works hard to make sure they don’t have to make the trip more often than they need to and people help each other out with shopping and chores that need to be done in the capital.

I had planned to donate one of the dog’s beds and some blankets to the ARK (Animal Rescue Kefalonia) rescue centre which is located near to Argostoli, and which GAWF supports.  So, when taking Sarah to the airport, it seemed sensible to go there at the same time, as I knew I wouldn’t be in that area again during my stay.  Having never been to an animal rescue centre, Sarah was unsure about whether she wanted to go, worrying about what she may encounter when she was there.  But she decided to come with me in the end.  When we arrived I was pleased that the wonderful Marina (who I met when here two years ago and who runs the centre), was there.  She speaks very little English (and I speak very little Greek) but luckily, an English volunteer, Gill was there and we were able to find out what is happening with the centre at the moment.  They currently have around 350 dogs (including 36 puppies from the last few days) plus numerous cats.  I had warned Sarah that the sound of the barking is deafening when you arrive, as the dogs all clamour for your attention as you walk through.
Clare and Sarah with Marina at ARK
The animals are either rescued from the streets (if they are strays and need medical help), rescued from abusive situations or simply abandoned by their owners on the streets or at the gates to the centre.  The numbers sadly are increasing over time, and this seems to be linked to the current economical situation in Greece.  Having said this, I have noticed in Greece in general over more recent years, more Greek people with dogs as pets, walking them on leads.  This is a good sign, together with an increase in the number of vets operating on the islands.  So it seems that things are improving, albeit at a slow pace.

We talked about how hard just putting down food and water every day for 350 dogs must be, without any of the other tasks such as cleaning out the pens, giving them medication and making sure that they are happy and suited to the dogs they are sharing their pen with.  They also spend a lot time dealing with the police and the courts in trying to bring perpetrators to justice.  So many people on the island are involved with the charity and help out in any way they can.  And Marina, works 365 days a year – the dogs still need feeding on Christmas Day!  What a task, and I felt overcome with admiration for her.

We made a small monetary donation to the centre, which Marina was absolutely thrilled with.  She wanted a picture taken with us and even put on some lipstick which had been given to her recently, for the occasion! 

It was an emotional experience for both of us and Sarah told me later that it has really given her food for thought in terms of possibly taking a rescue dog on at some point in the future.  I can’t recommend it enough!  Having any dog is a privilege but to take a rescue gives you an added feeling of satisfaction, knowing that you’re giving that dog a loving home where they can be given the attention and time they deserve.

Clare and Poppy and Dexter - ready to go - but already making plans to return next year!
My stay here has now come to an end, but what a fantastic time I’ve had. It was better than I could ever have hoped for and the great thing is that it will still be there next year for me! I said my goodbyes to all the people I met, including the wonderfully hospitable owners of my house, Claire and Nikos and headed off to the port in Sami to catch the ferry to the mainland. 

Goodbye Kefalonia – see you next year!!

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