Thursday, January 26, 2012

Princess Kali Amanda joins a club

'Uncle' Keith giving Kali ear rubs
Murphy’s Law is often at work when you’re rescuing a dog. On the day I brought the yellow dog into my life—or better said, pulled her scrawny, limping self into my car here on the island of Kefalonia—naturally I only had four minutes left on my pay-as-you-go mobile phone, and not enough cash to buy a new phone card.

One minute of the four went for a call to my Christmas Day hostess, who had invited me back for a lunch of the leftovers. 

“Sorry I can’t make it,” I said, wondering how long it would be before the dog peed, pooped, threw up, or performed some combination thereof on the upholstery of my rented car. “I’ve got a dog.”

“A what?

“A dog.”

“A dog!”

“Yes. Off the street. I couldn’t help it,” I told her. “I know I shouldn’t have, but she was limping, and— “

“Oh, well done!” said my friend in her wonderful British way. The fact that she always chirps things like “well done!” at times like these, as opposed to the eye-rolls or and flat-out derision I get from way too many other people whenever I do a rescue, is one of the reasons I love her like a sister.

The second minute went to a call to another couple of British expatriates, Keith and Julia Preston, who, with Julia’s sister Pat Dolman and husband Dave run one of the island’s animal rescue organizations, Kefalonia Animal Trust (KATs).

“I can’t talk long because I’m almost out of minutes,” I said, “but I’ve… well, I’ve done it again… picked up another stray.”

“You’ve done what?” Julia asked.

“A stray… a street dog… I have her in my car here and— “

Keith, a former Yorkshire coal miner who can befriend the most feral of feral cats, is always pragmatic. “Now what are you going to do?” he wanted to know.

“Do you have a dog kennel I can borrow?”

In half an hour Keith met me at the crossroads up the hill from their home/animal refuge, bringing a metal crate on loan from Pat. And after another two minutes, the yellow dog was leaning against him for a hug.

“She’s not that bad off,” he said, assessing her starvation level.

I nodded. We’ve all seen a lot worse. “But she’s got the bum leg, and she was about to get hit by a car, and… “

He gave me one of his knowing chuckles. He’s heard lots of rescue stories from me over the years.

“Well, she’s a soft one. Nice dog, that’s for sure. Aren’t you, Spodger?”

Keith calls all animals he likes “Spodger,” and though he likes almost all of them, hearing it nevertheless made me happy. Kali had officially joined the Spodger Club.

“Now what are you going to do?” he asked again after we managed to finagle the huge, clunky, folding crate into my little Fiat.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you need food for her?”

I showed him the bag from which I’d been feeding the Museum Gang.

“What’s your husband going to say?”

“That, I do know—nothing good.”

He gave the yellow dog thorough rubs behind the ears. She scrunched her eyes shut in bliss.

“All right then, I’m off,” he said. “Have dogs to feed. Call us if you need anything.”

“Like CPR after the husband jumps through the phone line and throttles me?”

He chuckled again. “Yeah. We’ll be there.”

Watching Keith drive off in his old sputtering car—the car that’s lined in fur that is shed by the countless puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats transported for vet care and spay/neuter (and if lucky fostering and adoption), the car that’s full of bags and cans of food for the dozens of homeless animals KATs sustains at feeding stations, the car that leaks when it rains because the type of shoestring budget on which most rescuers struggle doesn’t allow for such niceties as new cars—it occurred to me, not for the first time, that we are all nuts. Keith, his wife and sister and brother-in-law, me, and the hundreds of thousands of other rescuers around the world who spend our time, energy, and money on the overwhelming tidal wave of neglected, abused, and/or abandoned animals.

We are reckless surfers on that tidal wave, risking everything including health, jobs, relationships, and sanity.

Glancing at Kali, who sat quietly in the front seat because the crate had crowded her out of the back, I got another rush of “Ye gads, what have I done?”

I wanted to call out after Keith, Please come back! Help! Yes, I do need something. Just take this dog, can’t you?  I don’t want to rescue another one right now. I don’t! I’ve got too much to do! And anyway I’m still exhausted from the ones before!

But there was no point. Keith and Julia’s house is more than full, as is their sister Pat’s house. Everyone else on this island who cares about animals has as many as they can possibly hold. It’s not uncommon for animal-lover households to have 6, 7, or more dogs.

I took a breath for strength and got in the car. Kali quietly watched.

Now what are you going to do? the question echoed. 

She looked at me as if wondering the same thing.

“Don’t worry, Spodger.” I gave her a rub in the behind-the-ear sweet spots Keith had found. “We’ll think of something.”

Please see previous posts about Kali... 

Princess Kali Amanda Gets Her Chance

Princess Kali Amanda Gets Her Second Chance

If you'd like to help a sweet, elderly, disabled street dog on the island of Paros, please see Old, Arthritic Gina, a Canine Work of Art, Endures a Hard Life on the Street

If you'd like to help unchain a dog who spends his whole life chained no matter the weather on the island of Kefalonia, please see Painful Talk with Friend Who Keeps Dog Chained.

ALL PHOTOS AND TEXT BY KATERINA LORENZATOS MAKRIS - COPYRIGHT 2012 -  Reprint or re-post allowable only by explicit permission from the author, who may be contacted at Thank you!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Painful talk with friend who keeps dog chained outside

Another dog (not Fido) who spends his life on a chain, howled when I stopped petting him and left
A golden retriever spends his life chained up—winter, summer, spring, and fall—in the parking lot of one of the island of Kefalonia’s biggest rental car companies, operated by the niece of one of my dearest friends.

Around one o’clock in the afternoon today I stopped by to see if the niece—we’ll call her “Maria”—was there so as to give her some grapefruit from our trees. Seeing the dog chained outside, I thought Maria must be in the office working. Maybe she had left the dog out there temporarily to catch some of the week’s rare sunshine.

But she wasn’t there, and neither was anyone else.

The dog—we’ll call him "Fido"—danced happily and showered me with grateful affection. When I left, he howled.

Two hours later, the dog was still there.

Five hours later, at about six-thirty, Fido had been moved to a different chain, with theoretical access to a small plastic dog kennel and a large pan of water.

But he had wrapped the chain so tightly around a nearby column that he couldn’t reach the kennel or the water. He lay shivering in a patch of weeds.

When I unwound the chain, he ran straight to the water and drank for a full minute.

At that hour, the temperature was already 8 degrees Celsius, or 46 Fahrenheit.  Forecasts say tonight’s low will be 5C, or 41F.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Fido. “I’m sorry.”

He may or may not have understood the words, but he definitely understood my touch. He craved it. When I let off petting him he’d duck his head under my palm and make it trail along his body. When I took a step away he’d glue himself to my leg.

“I’m sorry,” I said again. “I’m so sorry.”

His howl followed me as I drove away.

After getting home, I fed our foster dog Kali then immediately looked for Maria’s phone number.


First some pleasantries, inquiries about family members, wishing each other a good new year, all with the sound of a small dog barking in the background.

KM: I stopped by the office today to give you some fruit.

MARIA: I’m not there in the winter. It’s mostly closed. There’s only someone there for maybe a couple of hours in the morning.

KM: I hear a little dog barking. Is that yours?

MARIA:  Yes, that’s my dog. When I get on the phone he barks because he wants my attention.

KM: (laughing) Yes, ours do the same. It’s amazing. He lives inside with you?


KM: Maria, I’m wondering if you know that there’s been a dog chained up all day outside your office?

MARIA:  Yes, I know. That’s our dog. Fido.

KM: Your dog?

MARIA: Yes. That’s where he lives. That’s where we keep him.

KM: Oh, gosh.

MARIA: That’s where he’s always been.

KM: I’m sad to hear that.

MARIA:  Why? He’s fine.

KM: He’s very cold.

MARIA: No. He’s fine. He’s used to it. He’s been there his whole life. Four years.

KM: That’s a hard life, Maria. Especially in this weather. It’s very cold tonight.

MARIA: I know. I know it’s cold.

KM: It’s hard for dogs to endure these extremes in weather.

MARIA:  He’s been there four years. He’s fine. He’s never caught a cold.

KM: I’m glad he’s been healthy. But he’s not comfortable. It’s hard for dogs to go through weather extremes, just as it is for us.

MARIA: Lots of people keep their dogs tied up outside. It's perfectly normal.

KM: I know a lot of people do it. I see it everywhere, not just here in the Greece, but in the U.S. and lots of other countries too. That doesn't make it right.

MARIA: He’s a dog. Wild dogs live outside. They’re made to live outside.

KM: I think wild dogs and wolves are different species from domesticated dogs, canis familiaris. And even if they can survive being in weather extremes, it doesn’t mean that they’re comfortable. It can’t be pleasant for Fido. In fact I think Fido is miserable.  This is torment. We wouldn’t be comfortable out there and I can’t imagine he can be either.

MARIA: He has never caught a cold. He’s not cold. He’s used to it. We asked the vet and the vet said he’s fine because he’s used to it.

KM: If you or I or the vet were to spend the night out there, even wearing heavy coats, I don’t think we’d feel fine.

MARIA: We’re not dogs.

KM: In the U.S., many scientists and companies perform experiments on dogs to test things like new drugs, new medical procedures, the effects of smoking tobacco, and so forth. One reason why they use dogs, as I understand it, is that their physiology is so similar to ours. They are really not that different from us in what they can feel. If something causes us discomfort and pain, it will probably cause that for them too.

MARIA:  Fido likes it out there. He likes being outside.  In the summer when we try to bring him into the office because it’s hot outside, he goes back outside.  My little dog that I have here doesn’t like to stay inside. She often prefers to sit out on the balcony.

KM: I think if Fido had a choice tonight he would want to be indoors where it’s warm, and with you—with his family.

MARIA: My little dog here likes to go outside, then she comes inside when she wants.

KM: I’m so glad you have that dog there inside with you. That’s a wonderful life for her. And it’s great that she has the choice to go outside or stay inside. I wish Fido could have that type of life.

MARIA: My husband goes and moves him from the chain by the office to the chain by the dog kennel. He can go into the kennel if he wants.

KM:  Maria, tonight I found Fido wrapped around a column. He couldn’t move more than five feet. He couldn’t reach the kennel, or the water. When I untangled him, he went to the water and drank for a whole minute. He must have been stuck there for a long time.

MARIA: Sometimes he gets stuck like that but then he figures out how to untangle himself.

KM: I’m hoping you can think about giving Fido the kind of comfortable life that your small dog has.

MARIA: He’s not mine. Fido belongs to someone who works for us.

KM: He’s not yours?

MARIA: The fellow keeps him there.

KM: On your property?

MARIA: He’s the office mascot. In the summer all the tourists stop and pet him.

KM:  But in the winter?  There are no tourists in the winter. And there’s only someone there in the office for a couple of hours in the morning, you said. Fido is alone day and night. And in all kinds of weather.

MARIA: His owner is there for several hours a day at the office.

KM: But you said…

MARIA: His owner loves him. He pets him all the time. He has a little kid, and he brings the kid to visit the dog. They love each other.

KM: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the dog could be at home with his family, that family who loves him so much, and who he loves too with all his heart?

MARIA: He gets lots of love.

KM: Does he ever get off the chain?

MARIA: Oh yes, of course. The fellow lets him off and he goes running through the fields. Sometimes he goes down to the sea for a swim.

KM: He gets this exercise every day?

MARIA: The fellow takes really good care of him.

KM: I wish he could have Fido in his home with him, to spare him the misery of the cold, the rain, the wind…

MARIA: Instead of thinking about dogs outside, we should be thinking about all the homeless people who are out in the cold.

KM:  Yes and of course you’ve heard the whole saga of how back in California my husband and I are taking care of my distant relatives—the elderly aunt and uncle with severe memory impairment who used to live here in Kefalonia. You’ve heard the whole story. They were essentially abandoned. They had no electricity, heating, food. But it’s a flaw, isn’t it?  Caring?  And it just gets worse. If you open your heart to care about animals you care about people too, and vice versa. The same heart that cares about one will care about the other. It’s a pain in the neck, this caring thing.

MARIA: Fido likes the cold. You should see how he loves to get wet. Every morning he jumps into that large pan of water, to bathe himself, to keep himself clean.

KM: He’s missing some spots. After I pet him my hands were dark with dirt from his fur, just like street dogs who’ve never been bathed.

MARIA: That's because during the day he gets dirty again.

KM: I don’t think dogs do a very good job of bathing themselves.

MARIA: This is all your opinion.

KM: That’s true. Yes. My opinion. I thank you for letting me talk with you about it. It’s very kind of you to listen.  I’m hoping, really hoping, that you’ll speak with the fellow who owns Fido, and ask him to take his dog into his home.

MARIA: I’m not going to do that.

KM: It would be such a wonderful thing for Fido. And he’s a very sweet dog. So sweet. Really affectionate. He’d be so happy to live with his family, in their home.

MARIA: It’s none of my business.

KM: Fido lives chained up at your business, on your property.

MARIA: He’s not mine. He’s that fellow’s.

KM: Perhaps you could speak with him, and ask him—

MARIA: He loves the dog. He treats him fine.

KM:  Maybe you could ask him to expand his love for his dog, and improve his care of him, by taking him home where he can be part of his family?

MARIA: He is part of the family. They love him.

KM:  You said the man’s child loves the dog. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could spend their lives side by side?  Dogs will give their lives for their families—especially children. But as it is now they don’t see him very often. He spends most of his life alone. In the cold, rain, wet, whatever the weather. Their love for him must be able to make a spot for him in their home, don’t you think? I’m hoping you’ll speak with him—

MARIA: I don’t get involved in other people’s affairs.

KM: The fellow has made it your affair by keeping his dog chained up outside your office.  A very sad thing. Painful to see.

MARIA: You can’t fix everything. You can’t save the world.

KM:  No. That’s right. We can’t. But there are some things we can change and we can fix. This dog…  you could really help him.

MARIA: I don’t go there in the winter. What goes on has nothing to do with me.

KM:  He’s such a sweet animal. Really loving. You could make his life so much better.

MARIA: Dogs live outside.

KM: Your little dog must be very happy to live with you inside. Fido could be happy too.

MARIA: He’s so big. I’m afraid of big dogs.

KM: I’ve never met a sweeter dog. Really nice animal.

MARIA:  Of course he is.  The fellow bought him, paid a lot of money for him.

KM:  It’s hard for me to understand why he went out of his way to get this dog, to buy him, then just leaves him abandoned out there.

MARIA: He’s not abandoned.

KM:  Are you hoping he’ll protect the property? Is he supposed to be guarding the office? Because he’s sure not doing that. He’s very friendly. He only barked when I left, because he wanted me to stay so he wouldn’t be alone. Being alone is very hard for a dog.

MARIA: No. He’s not a guard dog. That’s just where the fellow wants to keep him.

KM:  It’s really hard for a dog to spend his life alone. They aren’t made for that. They are bred to love us. They want to be with us. They want to belong. They love being part of a family. This is torment for him. It’s like punishing him. What did he do to deserve this?

MARIA: [Silence]

KM:  Maybe the fellow doesn’t want Fido anymore? Maybe he was too much trouble to have at home, and it’s easier just to chain him up out there?  Would he like a new home for the dog?

MARIA:  No. He wants him.

KM:  I wish I could understand why he wants to have an animal chained up outside in all kinds of weather, day and night, not even on his own property, but at his employer’s office. What good is that? Why does he want the dog at all?

MARIA: It’s none of my business.

KM: Sadly, it makes your business—your beautiful car rental company—look like it’s run by hicks. That type of thinking—that it’s OK to leave dogs chained up like that, in freezing cold, and in blistering heat, and in rain, and in wind—that type of thinking is for hicks, Maria.

MARIA: [Silence]

KM: I’m sad to see this situation making your company look like it’s run by backwoods, unsophisticated folks who don’t know any better.

MARIA: [Silence]

KM: This custom of leaving dogs chained up outside belongs to the old days—to our grandparents’ generation. It’s not for us. We’ve come beyond that. This situation is making your business look terrible.

MARIA: [Silence]

KM: I’m hoping you’ll think about this? I’d be so grateful, and I know Fido would, too.

MARIA: [Silence]

KM: Thank you for listening. You’ve been very kind to let me take your time, and let me express my feelings.  My heart breaks to see that dog in such misery in front of a lovely business owned by wonderful people like your family. I very much appreciate you letting me talk with you about it.

MARIA: You’re welcome.

A few more pleasantries, and the conversation ends.

Echoing howl

It’s six hours later now, six hours deeper into this cold night. Tonight will be followed by another frigid night just like it, and then night after night for months throughout this island’s harsh winter.

I take Kali into the yard so she can relieve herself. The stars overhead seem to have sharp edges, like bits of broken ice. My teeth chatter in spite of five layers of shirts and sweaters, the jacket over it all, and the cap.  Kali foregoes her usual nighttime rat-flushing exploits and waits for me at the door, eager to get back inside to some warmth.

When I go back to typing, she hops up onto the sofa a few feet away from me and settles in for another snooze. I’m grateful—deeply grateful—that I was able to pluck her off the streets and out of the jaws of winter. But there are so many more—countless more Kalis—still out there.

Fido’s howl echoes in my head.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Old, arthritic Gina, a canine work of art, endures a cold, hard life on the street

Gina finds a soft spot on fishing nets
At least three beautiful things come from the Greek island of Paros.

One is the famed Parian marble, pearly and translucent, from which great art and structures such as the statue of Nike (Winged Victory) of Samothrace and the roof tiles of the Parthenon were made. 

Parian marble at an old quarry on the island of Paros, Greece
Second, there’s the work of Archilochos, known as the first writer in history to focus on inner thoughts and emotions rather than on grand epic tales. 

Bust of Archilochos, writer on Paros in 7th century B.C.
And third, a four-footed work of art, a lovely senior canine by the name of Gina, struggles to survive a cold, windy winter on the waterfront of the main town, Parikia.

Work of art, Gina of Paros
Canine art

Soon after I got off the boat during a brief visit to the island, Gina leaned against me. Straight away, she demonstrated one of the finest arts of all—the art of canine companionship—the soft, panting smile of welcome, the reassuring metronome of the tail, and the immediate, profound friendship, accepting everything I am, no questions asked.

When she got tired of standing she laid down, rested her chin on my foot, and fell asleep. 

Petting her turned my hands black with grime.

Gina needs a bath
Arthritis, traffic, and whipping winds

Getting up is hard for Gina, and so is walking. At her advanced age, arthritis can bring constant pain. Her eyes have the milky gloss of age, and perhaps don’t allow her to see very well anymore. Her response to sounds seems a little vague too. Losses of those senses can be deadly for a dog who sometimes naps in the middle of the street.

Gina’s aging eyes and ears might no longer warn her of oncoming traffic
Gina followed me to a grocery store and waited outside, maybe hoping I’d bring her something. Even though I didn’t, she seemed to remember me when I came by the next day, hauled herself to her feet, waddled up the sidewalk, and greeted me like a dearest friend.

Affectionate Gina
At night, in the fierce winter rains and winds that whip Aegean islands, her only shelter is the alcove entrance of a shop. There’s a wooden platform there that’s a little better than cold concrete or soggy dirt.

The winds lash hard even through the alcove. Gina shuts her eyes tight, shivers, eventually falls asleep, and dreams with her tongue lolling out, perhaps of the cushiony, bone-soothing type of bed that a senior citizen like her deserves.

Gina’s only ‘bed’ at night
Beloved by locals

Shopkeepers and other folks in the area say they love Gina. They report that she’s been out there on the streets for years. They feed her copiously. One doting neighbor addresses her fondly as gourounaki mou,“my little piggy.”

Gina waiting for a hand-out
While researching our book Your Adopted Dog: EverythingYou Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need, coauthor Shelley Frost and I were surprised to learn that many veterinarians believe the top health challenge to American dogs is obesity.

Gina is not an American dog, but her diet of haphazard handouts from anyone who wishes to feed her has made her grossly overweight.

According to vets, obesity can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism, easily controlled with daily medication.

Gina, grossly overweight
 Gina stinks

Though I am blessed without much ability to smell—this can come in handy for someone who enjoys the company of dogs—I found that Gina stinks. A lot. This might be because sometimes she lies in pools of her own urine, her hindquarters and tail soaked in it.

Gina lying in her own puddle
Maybe she has lost some bladder control, or maybe her arthritis has made it so painful for her to get up and walk to an appropriate potty spot that sometimes she just doesn’t.

In any case, urine burns could bring on sores and infection.

Let’s rescue Gina

Gina is only one of countless millions of homeless dogs in this world—many of them just as old and infirm as she is, and many of them in far worse condition. The hard-working local rescue group, Paros Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) has already spayed and vaccinated Gina as part of their program, and continues to keep an eye on her.

So why should we save Gina in particular?  Well, why not?  She needs it, she deserves it, and we can do it.

Also, she can serve as a perfect example, a “poster child,” for what a caring and compassionate community of animal lovers can accomplish, demonstrating that we believe that all dogs—especially old ones in failing health--deserve comfort and safety.

I’m donating 100 Euros for starters

After fostering and re-homing nearly 130 street dogs, several cats, and a couple of human relatives over recent years, my husband and I have to resist taking in more right now. Our house in California is already overflowing with rescues, both canine and human, who need all our attention and resources. But Gina has nabbed my heart, ever so gently, and waddled off with it.

To a qualified, caring home for Gina, I’ll donate 100 Euros (about $125 U.S.) then 20 Euros (about $25 U.S.) per month toward her needs.

Paros Animal Welfare Society is also searching for such a home, but that’s not an easy feat on an island of only about 12,000 inhabitants and abundant homeless dogs.

The Gina Retirement Project

If you can open your house and heart to Gina, or make a donation toward her possible transportation to and upkeep in a true home, please contact Paros Animal Welfare Society with reference to the “Gina Retirement Project.”

We don’t know Gina’s exact age, and I am by no means a veterinarian, but my decades of doggie experience tell me that with proper diet, medication, warmth, comfort, safety, and of course lots of love, Gina might shed some weight, perk up, and thrive happily for another two to five years.

An indoor, loving home?

Would you please spread the link to this article? Help find an indoor home with someone who has the available time and the love in their hearts to care for an older dog and fulfill her special needs?  For example, the incontinence problem might be cleared up with veterinary attention, or it might not.

Whoever adopts Gina must be willing and able to accept and deal with such issues, and also must go through the normal adoption screening and home check process.

Given her advanced age, it might be best if Gina's destination were within boating and driving distance from the island of Paros, so as to spare her a plane trip.

Valiant survivor deserves dignified retirement

For several years, Gina has braved the harshness of life on the streets without complaint. She still wags her tail and gives loving smiles to complete strangers. But she’s done her time out there.

Let’s provide a proper retirement with the warmth, comfort, health care, and personalized attention and love that this unheralded little work of Parian art deserves.

Gina deserves a safe, comfortable retirement

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Princess Kali Amanda Gets Her Second Chance

 For the first part of this story please see:"Princess Kali Amanda Gets Her Chance"

It’s amazing how fast dogs can run. Even a starving dog. Even a starving dog with a bum leg.

It’s equally amazing how slow we humans are. Especially a human who’s still all dressed up for Christmas. Worse yet, a human all dressed up for Christmas with a bum knee.

However, the aforementioned bum-kneed human, in pursuit of aforementioned bum-legged dog, had one significant advantage: adrenaline.

In those moments, I hardly noticed the pain in the knee. It still worked, and that’s what mattered. And I didn’t care that a dozen people stopped to stare at me hobble by. They were probably the same people who had strolled blithely past the dog I was trying to catch and all the other miserable street dogs, and who couldn’t give a flying fig about any of them.

After chasing every pigeon in downtown Argostoli via her lumbering but exuberant three-legged gallop, and playfully dodging my clumsy attempts to nab her, the yellow dog ducked into a narrow alley and followed a scent. There, while she meticulously searched a plastic garbage bag for edibles, I got a really good hold on her collar.

Though reluctant to abandon the bag, soon she decided she was happy to accompany me to my car.  Except for every time she saw a pigeon. Now, onlookers not only stared—they laughed.

There is humor to it, watching a woman in a silk shirt, sparkly necklace, upswept hairdo, and heels wrangle with a wiggly, pigeon-obsessed dog.

To the Greek eye, this might seem extra funny. There’s little enough consciousness about dog rescue in the U.S., and less here. Why on earth go to such lengths to corral a street dog who’s obviously healthy and fit enough to chase birds?

For a moment, as I struggled to keep hold of her collar and not meet the pavement face-first, I asked myself the same question. Was this rescue absolutely necessary? Was it that critically important to save this one animal, when so many others continue to suffer?

Where had my galldang mantra gone? I tried to summon it back: Not another one. Not now. But I could barely hear it above the little yellow girl’s hard pant, the splash of her paws and my formerly pretty shoes through puddles of rain, the thwack of her long tail on the backs of my knees. And what about that age-old, terribly true corollary mantra, You can’t save them all?

A new mantra crowded out the others despite every effort to banish it—that fiendish quote from Helen Keller. I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.

Trouble-maker Helen. Did you ever rescue dogs? Did you have any idea of the chaos it creates? The time it eats? The fortunes it burns? The relationships it muddles? What business did you have issuing such heart-rending, undeniable imperatives? Shut up. But she wouldn’t.

When I opened my car’s rear door, the yellow dog jumped right in, gave the upholstery a few appreciative sniffs and turned to me with a grin. “Nice wheels. Where we goin’? Is breakfast included?”

I collapsed into the driver’s seat and tried to breathe. It was that moment—the one when you desperately hope that maybe you’ve just been dreaming. Maybe you haven’t really done what you’ve actually just done.

From the back seat came the scuffling noises of the yellow dog darting from one window to the other to check on the pigeon status, plus keep an eye on the Museum Gang across the street.

After gulping some deep breaths, and trying to suppress the queasiness warning me that even saintly husbands can tolerate only so much, I turned around and looked at her.

The little yellow girl took another couple of glances out the windows, turned around three times on the seat in the classic doggie nesting dance, and curled up with a sigh, chin on paws, eyes closed.

Then suddenly, she seemed to remember something. She leapt up and stepped forward. Carefully, she placed one paw on my thigh, a shoulder against my chest, and molded her body to mine, snuggling her head softly under my chin.

All went quiet. There was nothing but the swish of her tail, gently rocking us to the rhythm of some slow, ancient song she knew—probably one that all dogs know.

An evangelist once informed me that animals are wonderful, to be sure, but that I should keep in mind that they are “empty vessels,” merely “things with no souls.”

This “empty vessel,” the one with no soul, this limping, starving, “thing,” who had a length of rope—likely testament to months of bondage and neglect—still hanging from her collar, somehow this soulless thing had found a way to speak to me. If that snuggle wasn’t a thank-you, I don’t know what is.

Please see “Princess Kali Amanda Joins a Club.”

If you'd like to help unchain a dog who spends his whole life chained no matter the weather on the island of Kefalonia, please see Painful Talk with Friend Who Keeps Dog Chained.

If you'd like to help a sweet, elderly, disabled street dog on the island of Paros, please see Old, Arthritic Gina, a Canine Work of Art, Endures a Hard Life on the Street

PLEASE NOTE: Kali is available for adoption. Let me rephrase that. Along with thousands of other rescuers caring for animals they can’t keep, I am desperate to find a wonderful forever home for this special needs girl. Maybe she’s just the right one for you, or for someone you know.

If you have any interest or leads please contact me at

Thank you for reading and for any networking you can do!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Princess Kali Amanda Gets Her Chance

When you love dogs, really love them, you need a mantra.

Not another one. Not now.                                                                              

I said it over and over when I first saw the little yellow Labrador a week before Christmas.

A gorgeous girl with graceful lines, a bum hind leg, and with ribs, spine, and hip bones made prominent by hunger, she was trying to finesse her way into a pack of street dogs who hang out in front of the archaeological museum in downtown Argostoli, on the Greek island of Kefalonia, right across the street from the courthouse.

A short length of rope hung from her too-tight leather collar, a common sight in a country where many dogs spend their lives tied up, and some manage to chew or break themselves free. Then they drag what’s left of the rope or chain with them for the rest of their wretched lives—typically not very long—roaming the streets or countryside.

The Museum Gang dogs approached the yellow girl with bristled fur, stiff tails, and warning woofs. She immediately flopped onto her back, wiggling all over in puppyish, tail wagging submission, as if to beg, “Oh please oh please, look at what a silly and harmless thing I am. You can’t possibly want to hurt me, can you?  And of course you’ll want to share with me your charming company and maybe any food you might find, right?”

The apparent pack leader, an older Lab mix, gave her private parts a cursory sniff, then issued his de facto approval by walking away with a bored yawn.

His companions, hunting breed mixes who, judging from their similar black and tan coloring and size might be littermates, were not the least bit bored. The new dog needed to be thoroughly inspected, intimidated, and mounted. 

She was not allowed to stand. Whenever she tried, she was growled at, knocked over—easy to do because of that weak back leg—and kept on the ground in throat holds till she went limp. 

On the occasions when she did make it to her feet, she’d scamper quickly away and lead them, even though limping, in a playful chase… right through speeding car traffic. 

 A promise to a saint

When promises are made to husbands, especially husbands who are tolerant to the point of saintliness, one tries one’s very best to keep them. During our goodbyes at the San Diego airport, The Saint had pleaded, “I support you a thousand percent in your work to write about animal and environmental issues and to fix up our house over there in Greece. I’m happy to stay here and take care of the pack of pooches you’ve brought home in the past. But please, please, PLEASE just don’t bring me another.”

Therefore, there was only one recourse regarding the pretty yellow dog dodging cars: go blind.

I don’t see this. It’s not happening. 
For a whole week, the blindness held. More or less.

Not at night, when I saw the young Lab and the Museum Gang in my nightmares, mixed in with all the other nightmares from which those of us who care about animals suffer on a regular basis.

Dog with mange being treated at Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals in Cairo
Not in the morning, when I worked on keeping our decrepit old house here from falling apart, all the while remembering the 10 dogs and four cats over the past four years for whom it has served as foster home on the road to loving forever families.

Not another one. Not now.

The Saint and I are already overwhelmed with responsibilities: five ill and elderly human family members—at least one of them coming to live with us soon after I return to California—and as The Saint rightly pointed out, a house already overflowing with a large bunch of previous canine rescues.

Not another one. Not now.

A dark and shivery night

On Christmas Day, during a magnificent dinner in the home of a friend, I couldn’t help it—I wondered about Kali and the Museum Gang.  Had they gotten anything to eat?  Had they found any refuge from the driving rain, the biting cold, the howling wind?

Just before dessert, the power went out across the southern part of the island. My friend’s small house, old and drafty like ours, quickly lost any heat it had managed to retain, so we all wrapped up in blankets.

After dinner I hung around longer than I should have, reluctant to forge through the rain and gale-force winds back to a freezing, dark, spooky night at my own place.

Again, my thoughts went to the little yellow girl and the countless other abandoned dogs and cats on this island and around the world, spending every night in gloom and danger and worse.

Dog chained up in isolated field on the island of Nisyros, desperate for attention
Eventually, armed with pajamas on loan from my hostess, I opted for the warmth and safety of a hotel in town, where the power hadn’t lapsed. I could buy that comfort. Whip out the credit card, stroll into the room, take a relaxing shower, and slip into a cloud-soft bed.

No such comforts for the little Lab girl, or for the all the others. The least I could do, I told myself, was give them a meal.

In the morning, the gang of five lay on a patch of soggy grass, curled up tight to conserve whatever warmth they could generate, all five of them shivering so horribly it made my own bones ache. Excruciatingly painful to watch, and to imagine being so cold day after day, night after night, with no hope of warmth till summer. 

And the little yellow Lab was nowhere in sight.

Maybe her family had finally come looking for her and taken her home. Maybe someone else had taken pity on her and given her refuge. Maybe she’d found another street dog pack to join. Or maybe… I didn’t want to imagine other possibilities.

Perverse relief

When I served the breakfast only two of the Museum Gang would come anywhere near. I had to stand a good ten feet away for even those two to feel safe enough to eat. The others kept their distance, darting in now and then to bark at me and make a half-hearted show of menace.

In Greece, most street dogs I meet have mellow temperaments. These, unfortunately, had apparently undergone enough trauma to make them err on the side of caution.

This brought me perverse relief.  Now it wouldn’t be hard to keep my promise to The Saint. Rescuing dogs is always a challenge. Dealing with dogs fearful enough to show even a bit of aggression is a line I decided long ago, after 50 stitches, to never cross again.

Satisfied that at least the Museum Gang had something in their bellies, I got in the car and started to back out.

Then, in my rear-view mirror, there she was. 

A golden blur.  Sunshine on paws.  Wiggling all over, trying again to finagle her way into the pack’s good graces. 

Right away they ran at her.  Spooked, she dashed into the street, directly in front of oncoming traffic.

My heart stopped.

A blue Mercedes honked, swerved, and barely missed her.

I flew out of my car, held up my hands to stop traffic, and grabbed the little length of rope hanging from her collar. She snuggled happily into my arms, a pulsating bundle of puppy energy, and kissed my hands and chin.

Then, with cars honking at us all the while, she spotted a flock of pigeons and bolted.

I should’ve had a better hold on that rope. But it slipped out of my hand, and she was gone.

Please see next post, "Princess Kali Amanda Gets Her Second Chance."

ALL PHOTOS AND TEXT BY KATERINA LORENZATOS MAKRIS - COPYRIGHT 2012 -  Reprint or re-post allowable only by explicit permission from the author, who may be contacted at Thank you!