What draws a person into becoming a volunteer? (An actual volunteer and not a person who is expected to do professional work without getting paid in kind or acknowledgement.) A volunteer for a cause. Deciding to invest time and energy into something that is important. Like for example, entertaining sick children, playing board games with old people, or taking care of animals found injured and abandoned. It takes strength to do something beyond your own interest. And it is a sad fact that fewer people today choose to do so.
Every day there are tens of animals left in the streets to fight for their survival. People who loved the idea of having a puppy but when it grew up, they decided it’s too much trouble, entails too many expenses, and the kids who were supposed to “play” with it have now found a new gadget that consumes their time. So the apparent solution for some, is to just drop it off and drive away. “It will find a way to fend for itself”.
Hunters adopt Pointers simply for the sake of that season when they wish to engage in the “thrill” of crawling within the bushes and ambushing small, defenseless creatures, because “it is fun” and “it is a hobby”. One in fact that has royal roots – but that is another story. But throughout the rest of the year, these dogs are often left in appalling conditions, locked up in cages outside, with scarce food because according to some that will create a greater appetite that will make them better hunters, and the worse part, if they get sick they are left to perish.
As for cats, these tend to reproduce generously, something which frequently causes the discontent of the neighbourhood, as little felines run around house to house constantly searching for food. And in their attempt to stay out of the human hand that seeks to domesticate or punish them, cats habitually end up under some (race)driver’s wheels in the middle of the road.
If only there was some sort of way that these animals could be protected, while at the same time appeasing the neighbourhoods’ request for quiet and stray-free areas.
Animal shelters try to offer some help. But there is little to do if you are fighting on your own. A young couple in Athens set up on their own an animal shelter located in a large field in the suburbs of Attica. They currently offer care to over 100 dogs and on a daily basis issue calls for adoption of cats and dogs alike. Facing huge financial difficulties in supporting this shelter – often at the expense of their own comfort –, they demonstrate their love to these animals (all of whom they name) by refusing to give up on them when everyone else does. The lady described the tender story of how one Pointer was abandoned at their shelter as the previous owner was about to put her down because she had developed a sort of bulking tumour on her chest. Yet after months of tender, love and care, the swelling retreated and the dog was now a joyful, energetic, barking normal dog. One that had almost been killed for no reason.
“There are so many people out there who maltreat animals”, she tells me. “And what do these sweet creatures want? Just some love and affection”.
Just recently, in Cyprus, a small stray dog was thrown into a cardboard crusher by two hotel employees “because it was irritating the customers”. The dog did not survive. But just a few weeks later, the story has already been forgotten.
It is strange how we can so easily let go when it does not concern humans. Yet these animals often offer to us much more than some humans ever can. Unconditional love, loyalty, understanding, to name but a few. All you have to do is look into the eyes of a stray to see reflected in them the magnitude of its soul – that despite having suffered so much because of humans, it still has not given up on them. Maybe it is time to return the trust and do something for them in return. Something that goes beyond our own selfish interests for someone who is silently pleading for our help.