• Day 52: Off to Corfu! Sun, sand and street poisonings. I’ll pack my speedo’s…

    Oct 20th

    If you do a quick internet search for the places in Europe that are a bad place to be a dog, Greece figures fairly high up on the list. It battles it out with Romania, Bulgaria, Spain and Italy for the title of the shit-iest place in Europe to wag your tail.

    Stray dogs in Greece – photo credit: Laura Melis


    Strays and misery.

    In many places in the country there are large population of dusty strays on the street. Combine this with a common disregard for neutering (people either don’t care or some consider it’s not in keeping with their religious beliefs) and a general culture that often doesn’t  pay huge consideration to the moral worth of animals and some horrors unfold. You hear or read about the same stories over and over  – village street poisonings, puppies abandoned by the sides of the road,  grown dogs chained to trees 24/7 as guard dogs, others swept into gorvenment-run ‘sanctuaries’ where they are said to not be exercised and never released, others still used as hunting dogs and when the season is over brutally killed. Clearly there are many many dogs that have loving homes. But many also do not.


    Dogs sleeping on the street in Athens – photo credit: unknown


    Total meltdown

    And now the rest of Greece is in trouble too.

    That land of endless history and luxurious coast-line feels like it’s on the brink of very bad things indeed. Every day the various screens in our lives tell of its imminent economic collapse and growing political tensions. Needless to say, this is terrible for the people but it will also have a bad knock-on for the dogs. There is a common argument that the poorer a country the less the people are able or willing to care for their animals. I don’t buy this argument in full –  in India many of the poorest neighbourhoods have long maintained a spiritual reverence for cows and other animals- but it’s clear that money will limit people’s ability to act upon their compassion: if you lose your job you’ll feed your kids before you feed the dog.

    And so I felt compelled to go. All I needed was sun-cream, swimming trunks and the willingness to face some serious moral shit. Bring on the factor 100.

    WSPA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals who also happen to be the mother-ship of animal charities recommended me one small charity on the island of Corfu that I ought to visit. So I contacted them and they kindly agreed I coudl visit.


    The exceedingly kind Mrs Carol Langton

    CARE (Corfu Animal Rescue Establishment) was launched in 2003 by Carole Langton, a Brit and animal lover who has long been visiting the island and who decided that she had to do something about the huge number of stray dogs that were often starving or sick. Carole set up a sanctuary and forged links with charities overseas, notably in Germany, where the dogs could be sent and given a new life.

    Carol is clearly a very compassionate person because she offered me her villa to stay (whilst she was still in England) without so much as a single face-to-face meeting. I simply had to mention the words ‘Dog’ ‘I’ ‘Help’ and  she practically gave me the keys. Just think:  if she can home a hungry, unpredictable photographer think how many dogs she can help. I liked her immediately.


    My ridiculous argument on plane

    Maybe I was feeling uncertain about this journey or perhaps I was questioning my own moral worth but I got into a rather bitter row on the flight with a woman who sat next to me. And it wasn’t Ann, she was sitting further up the aisle. This sort of thing has never happened before but let me just say before I begin: it was entirely her fault. I’d love to let her have a point of view but I don’t know her blog URL so I’m afraid you are stuck with mine. And it’s gospel.  We didn’t argue over elbow space or who could read the easy-jet literature, we argued over who had more moral integrity. It was totally ridiculous. She started it by the way,  when she pointed out that my iPhone was still switched on as we were on the runway. She tutted and muttered. If she could have turned her backside to me and sprayed me with moral disgust she woudl have done so but the small economy seats prevented such movements.   When I turned on the vicious nasty iPhone again in mid-flight she openly criticised me for my failings.

    ‘You are the ONLY person on this plane who ia selfish,’ she said.  ‘It’s one rule for you and one for the rest of us isn’t it?’

    I looked at a man across the aisle eating a huge pot of Pringles whilst tapping on his phone keyboard and making loud annoying beeps. I thought: I’ll defend myself on this charge. I turned to face her but couldn’t quite move in my seat so looked at her obliquely. She was also too close to me to properly focus on.

    ‘I am NOT selfish.’

    ‘You are.’

    ‘No I’m not.’

    ‘One day I hope you will find it in yourself to contribute to this world’ she said turning away – as if that would neatly finish the argument.

    Right!  ‘Excuse me!? And how do you contribute exactly?’

    ‘Well,’ she said, her hands slightly tightening on the ends of the arm rests, ‘I work for Amnesty International’

    ‘Oh, do you? Well,’ I said, maneuvering my elbow a little more onto our shared armrest, ‘I’m taking a year out to save animals. And it’s UNPAID.’

    She made her best effort not to look impressed.

    Then she said, ‘Well, animals don’t count as much as humans.’

    OOOOhhhhhhhhh!!!! THAT OLD CHESTNUT!!!!

    My teeth clenched. At that point I had a choice  – I could either get into a calm and fascinating philosophical debate about the moral equivalence (or otherwise) of humans and animals or I could be rather childlike and irritating and wind her up. I’m ashamed to say I chose the latter. It’s not often I meet people I simply can’t stand.

    But I can tell you something: it’s fairly odd having an argument with a total stranger sitting next to you who you can’t even seewith whom you then have to spend the next hour in total silence whilst trying to share a single flight magazine.

    The journey was very long indeed.

    Bring on the dogs.


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