Day 68: CORFU. Where do I go from here?
So where were we?
Little Poppy the puppy dog has died back in the UK whilst I am out with Marjorie Pandi in the south of Corfu at her dog rescue shelter. I’m deeply impressed by her work and dedication, just like I was of Cheryl’s. These women are driven by a compassionate motor turning over in fifth gear whilst mine is just getting into first.
But I’m feeling a mounting sense of …. what is it? urgh-eclilihlass-%(^Y(*9824
While I sit here in the heat and take photo after photo of rescue dog, some emaciated, some unable to trust my touch, I’m eager to change lives.
What a trite expression that is! ‘I want to change lives’. I might as well be a contestant for Miss World (if only the sash would fit over my belly and they had size 13 high heels) . But as my electricity meter at home continues to tick over, my mortgage continues to come out of my account and my hair follicles continue to close up, that counter on the right hand side – ‘Animals Saved’ isn’t moving too much and it worries me.
Furthermore I’m still eating a fair bit of meat , or ‘flesh’ as the veggies call it (the point, you see, is to switch to vegetarianism only when and if my heart compels me to do so ) and therefore my moral footprint probably has a few squashed animals beneath it even though I’m now wearing leather-free flip-flops.
And now Poppy has died too.
This year IS important to me. I want to prove that going out on a limb can help change lives. I don’t want to just give money to others to do the hard work.
I have learnt this: I am stronger and bolder when I can touch suffering. I am, like most of us, protected by distance and indifference to animal pain in the same way that a pack of ham sits wrapped in clean plastic on a supermarket shelf with no hint of the pain that went into it. Suffering, I have come to realise, is something I need to be with. Not in a masochistic way, not in a voyeuristic way, but because I think that suffering can waken my slumbering heart.
I ask Marjorie more about the two elderly Greek sisters who reside somewhere in the middle of the island and who allegedly have far more dogs than they can ever walk or take effective care of. Horror stories abound. I’m determined to see what I can do.
‘You won’t get anywhere with them, I’m afraid’ she tells me with a long sigh. ‘They are protected by the government.’
I ask her for more information but she doesn’t want to talk . And they way in which she doens’t want to talk suggests in fact she does want to talk. I know that she has had dealings with this place in the past that have resulted in legal tensions.
I make a few phone calls to other charities on the island as well as to vets . What do they know? Where is it?
‘A dog concentration camp’?
After a while a picture builds.
In the centre of the island, very much out of the way, is a dusty patch of land where abandoned street dogs are kept by two old eccentric sisters who have little contact with the outside world. Many of the dogs are kept in cages and it is inconceivable that they can be properly walked or well fed as there are so many. Furthermore the dogs that go there never come back out. Some describe it as a dog ‘concentration camp’. But the sisters are paid by the government to take the dogs off the street and so they are unlikely to be held to account on welfare issues. Furthermore, I am told, there is much corruption in this part of Greece.
A brief search on the internet reveals a story of a dead dog hanging for over a month from the underside of a car outside the shelter.
Others say they have seen huge amounts of rats as well as puppies dying of disease amid terrible food and water conditions. Many say that it is impossible to approach without being verbally and sometimes physically assaulted by the women who can throw rocks. I’m not too fearful of two old ladies but then again they do have hundreds of dogs to release on to me. At least, I suppose, then I would have helped set those dogs free!
However, when I speak to a prominent vet on the island he says the dogs are in perfectly good condition and the rumours are all false. The women, he says, love the dogs. Is he in with the government I wonder??
Who to believe?
It seems the only way I can be sure is to find out for myself. I guess I need to trust my heart before anyone else. But how can I find this place.
After much searching I reach a man on the phone who claims to have raided this place ten years ago and rescued some dogs from outrageous conditions. He thinks he can find it if I can meet him at 2pm teh next day at a particular lay-by on the road south.
I go back that day to Carol’s place on the North of the island and greet the rescue dogs. What a life of luxury and freedom they have. Carol has made this possible. Maybe I can somehow do the same.