(N.Morgan) Blue was one of the thousands of strays lost in the streets of Greece. Unlike most of the other strays, Blue was destined for great things. Blue the stray dog was so lonely that she used every opportunity she could to make friends.
But when the sun went down on the Greek beach where she lived, she would be all alone. Even when she chased people’s cars, in fact, no one would take her home.
However, little did she know that someone would finally come to her aid…
That remarkable someone was Valia Orfanidou, who in August 2016 was on vacation in her hometown just outside the Greek capital, Athens. She happened to be staying by the sea, so every day the animal lover would take her dogs for a stroll on the beach.
She usually did that in the afternoon, when the hordes of sunbathers had retreated. That way, her pooches could have the run of the beach.
It was during these walks that Orfanidou and her dogs were joined by another canine. One afternoon the gang had just been minding their own business when a lone pooch bounded towards them. It seemed as if she had spotted the group from afar and wanted to join in the fun.
Recalling the incident, Orfanidou wrote in a YouTube clip, “She was looking desperately for company.”
Valia’s kind heart, taking pity on the poor mutt, she decided that it couldn’t hurt to let the little dog play with her pets while they were on the beach.
Moreover, Orfanidou suspected that the dog, who would go on to be named Blue, was one of Greece’s many strays. In 2015 animal welfare charities estimated that more than a million dogs roamed the country homeless.
Unfortunately, the recent debt crisis in the country had made the problem worse, as many pet owners abandoned the animals that they could no longer afford.
So Blue’s predicament was not unusual in Greece. Her sweet personality, though, made her stand out from the crowd. Writing on YouTube, Orfanidou explained that the young dog, perhaps only six or seven months old, demanded human attention. Indeed, it seemed all the little puppy wanted in life was someone to love.
As Orfanidou later told The Orphan Pet, “She would spend her day on the beach, going from one person to another, wagging her tail and begging for attention.”
“She would follow people home and run behind cars driving by. She only needed one look from you, and she would come to you and stay beside you, as if this was where she belonged.”
But while Blue’s situation broke Orfanidou’s heart, she was still unsure whether she could do anything to help.
“When you are an animal lover living in Greece, you simply get used to lonely stray dogs wandering around everywhere and choose to rescue the ones that can’t make it on the streets: the sick, emaciated or hurt ones, the newborns and the pregnant females,” she explained on YouTube.
Although Blue didn’t seem to fit into any of these criteria, Orfanidou decided that she would have to help the dog find the love she so desperately needed. So, after a few days, Orfanidou returned to the beach to collect Blue.
She then drove the hound all the way to Athens.
Once they made it back in the city, Orfanidou took Blue straight to the vet to get checked out. She then dropped the dog off at a friend’s house until she could return to Athens for good. Now the hunt was on to find Blue her forever home.
It’s unknown what fate would have been waiting for Blue if Orfanidou hadn’t stepped in. According to Greek Animal Rescue, a U.K.-based charity focused on rescuing the country’s strays, there are no major organizations in Greece that provide help for homeless animals.
But, luckily for Blue, her fortune had changed. In fact, the once lonely and vulnerable stray was thriving back at home with Orfanidou. And given that the pooch was easy to handle, sweet and easy-going, Orfanidou was sure she would make the perfect pet for one lucky owner.
A few months later, she found her forever family in Holland! Blue is thriving in her new home and is loving all of the attention. She lives with other dogs and cats, and has a new life filled with all of the love she could have ever imagined. Her new owner has many rescues who are therapy dogs, working to help comfort people at hospitals and nursing homes, so becoming a therapy dog is something that is likely in Blue’s near future!
Blue’s new family, meanwhile, graciously kept Orfanidou updated on her progress in her new country. “She finally has the pack she always wanted, friends to play with, a warm bed to sleep in and everything she ever dreamed of, right there for her,” Orfanidou told The Orphan Pet. “She won’t have to feed off leftovers and garbage anymore, nor beg for attention and love. All the love in the world is there for her, to enjoy every day, for the rest of her life.”
In addition, Blue’s family set up a Facebook page for the dog and pictures posted there show that the pooch had settled in well at her new home. She also loved spending time with fellow rescue dog and new best friend Rincewind and began to accompany her new mom to physiotherapy.
See Blue’s incredible journey in the video below.
So why does Athens have such a big dog problem?
Greek-American Tom Mazarakis explained on his website:
I have been living in Greece for the last 33 years and am well acquainted with the recent history of the dog situation in Athens and the rest of Greece.
As in most civilized countries, in Greece too, every municipality had a “dog pound” and a “dog catcher”. And, as in most cities throughout the world, many domesticated dogs in Greece would one way or another gain their “freedom” from their owners.
Either they would run away on their own, or they would be “let go” by irresponsible owners. Whatever the case may have been, these stray dogs often would breed and have puppies and multiply accordingly.
The dog catchers in Greece used to step in and round up as many strays as they could. The strays were held in the local municipal dog pounds for a period of no more than 90 days, and if no one claimed the dogs, they were typically then put to sleep.
This system kept the stray dog population down to a manageable level up until about 10 years ago. At about that time, a local animal rights activist group found out about a particular dog pound that kept their dogs in miserable and inhumane conditions. They visited the pound and filmed the scene.
Then they took their evidence and presented it to the local District Attorney who in turn issued a warrant for the responsible mayor’s arrest. That mayor was charged with the crime of “maltreatment of animals” which is a very serious offense in Greek law. He was convicted and sentenced to several months in prison along with a stiff monetary fine.
As a result, almost every municipality in Greece dissolved their dog pounds and fired their dog catchers. As you can understand, this paved the way for the stray dogs to multiply without restriction, and today they have become a serious problem. Many people, and especially children, have been attacked and mauled by gangs of wild dogs. But, no one takes responsibility.
The local Humane Society has been making every effort it can to feed and take care of as many stray dogs as they can handle, but their numbers keep growing. They try to neuter as many of the dogs as they can, but they just can’t seem to put even a small dent into the problem.
A small cafe on the Greek island of Lesbos has recently opened its doors to cater for the areas ever increasing populace of stray dogs. Footage taken on Wednesday, show the animals strewn out across the cafe catching up on some much needed sleep.
The cafe closes down to customers at 03:00 local time and opens up as a dog bed sit, allowing the stray canines to use the building during the winter months.
Reports suggest that there are over one million stray dogs scattered across Greece, most of which were once domesticated, however due to the recent debt crisis, many families have had to give up their pets, leaving many to become homeless.
The suffering of one dog is too much for an animal lover to accept. The suffering of a million is almost unfathomable. The BBC reported recently on the dogs of Greece, becoming victims of homelessness and hunger, following years of financial crisis in the country:
There are more than a million strays in Greece because people are simply abandoning pets they can no longer afford to keep”
Ways you can help the stray dog crisis in Greece:
Brian Davies led the Network for Animals team into action, rented a van and set to work. We initially discovered stray dogs, wearing collars in the centre of Athens. These dogs effectively ‘belong’ to the city. They are neutered and cared for by city officials, good samaritans, and tourists who visit the areas around the Acropolis, and generally appear to be in good health.
The real issue is on the outskirts, where there are no tourists or city officials to support the dogs. Out here, it was clear that the scale of the problem hadn’t been overstated. In these areas, the dogs roam abandoned industrial parks, old factories, and in struggling neighborhoods. They are hungry, homeless, and often in need of medical attention.
We teamed up with volunteers from ‘Ghost Dogs of Aspropyrgos‘ who were doing their absolute best, with very limited resources to feed hungry animals, take care of their veterinary needs, and offer hope to animals facing overwhelming circumstances. Every day the volunteer group feed more than 300 starving dogs.
The dogs’ love of affection reminded us of the lives they might once have had. Many will once have known homes, and loving owners. They now live on the streets and are completely dependent on human generosity. Network for Animals need to do more, and with your support, we will. Please make a donation and help support the ghost dogs of Greece.
For volunteering, please email us your name, address and personal details, and confirm that you will be able to provide your own transport to Greece, as well as food and hotels/hostels. Being able to drive and hire a car is also incredibly useful, as the areas covered are remote.
Please also email us if you are from the UK and interested in adopting a dog from Greece or joining a fostering program, run in conjunction with Greek Animal Rescue.