by Katerina Lorenzatos Makris ~
It happens all the time, all over the world. People leave dogs at boarding kennels, or with kindhearted rescuers or friends or relatives, promising to come back for them, then they never do. Sometimes they won’t even return phone calls or emails. For whatever reason, they’ve decided they no longer want the animal, and that’s their way of solving the problem—dump and disappear.
It happened to Raki (formerly named Hera), a young, affectionate, pretty terrier mix on the Greek island of Kefalonia. Her so-called family asked local rescuer Lynda Thompson to keep her for a month. They never came back. Nor did they respond to Lynda’s many attempts at communication.
Teaming up to help
There are some people in the world who would toss out a dog who has been dumped on them, or even have it euthanized. Not Lynda. A long-time rescuer, she cares deeply about animals and works hard to help them. But we rescuers are under constant siege by the countless needy animals out there, and we often need to team up with partners so as to save as many as we can.
When Lynda reached out to Rescue Diva, we were happy to help. Lynda continued to lovingly foster Raki while we sponsored the pooch’s expenses for her veterinary care, travel preparations, and some of the transport fees for her eventual re-homing abroad.
The re-homing process started when Rescue Diva contacted Graeske Hunde (GH), a Danish organization who specialize in re-homing Greek dogs and cats. Head of the group Benedikte Bjerre accepted Raki into their program, then she and the rest of the volunteers at GH got to work on finding her a new home.
Photos worked like charms
Energetic and puppy-ish, Raki was not exactly the easiest subject for photography, so Lynda had a hard time getting good pictures. Several weeks passed with Raki drawing not much attention on the GH website. After Benedikte pleaded for more pics, Rescue Diva asked American volunteer Stuart Makris to snap some shots. On vacation in Kefalonia, he gladly gave up a day of beach time to head over to Lynda’s and pitch in.
Results came quickly. Stuart’s photos worked like charms. Within a week, a Danish family spotted Raki’s cute new pics on the GH site and fell in love.
Benedikte sent me an email with the great news, and we began plotting Raki’s complicated journey to Denmark.
It might seem like madness to transport rescued animals from Greek Mediterranean islands all the way to northern European countries. Rescue Diva won’t argue. But we will say there’s currently not much choice. Greece is a small country of only 11 million inhabitants, with about half of them living in tiny apartments in Athens or other urban locales where pets are often not allowed, and the other half in rural areas where the lack of secure fencing and other pet safety issues make re-homing problematic.
The country’s depressed economy and record-high unemployment rates have not helped matters. Homeless dogs and cats number in the hundreds of thousands, while qualified adopters are needles in haystacks. So we often turn to reputable re-homing groups in Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, and elsewhere to find forever homes for the Greekies. Stronger economies and more established animal welfare infrastructures in those countries mean that they have fewer homeless animals, and thus can take in canine and feline “refugees” from abroad.
Once the groups accomplish the proper screening and carefully selected the right home, the transport arrangements begin.
From Kefalonia to Athens
Getting a dog from a Greek island to one of those countries is not easy, but Rescue Diva has organized and funded dozens of such journeys since 2001, and thankfully has found a reliable little network of professionals to make the trips go safely.
The first call we made to arrange Raki’s transport was to Akis and his wife Myrto of Athens Pet Taxi. They are a caring, efficient, and highly trustworthy duo who have transported many animals for us since 2013. Akis also comes with the bonus of a background in dog training. He agreed to drive from Athens to the port town of Kyllini to pick up both Raki and her foster brother Aero, then take them to Athens.
Next we phoned Anna Petraki of Pansion Petraki, a clean and lovingly run pet hotel on a tranquil, verdant property near the Athens airport. A fellow animal lover, Anna too has helped us with several rescues over the years.
Meanwhile, Lynda offered to drive both dogs from her home in Kefalonia to the little port town of Poros on the opposite end of the island, then accompany them on the ferry boat to meet Akis over in Kyllini.
Courtesy and cooperation conquer complications
Complicated, yes. But with everyone cooperating courteously toward the same goal, always putting the animals’ needs and safety first, it all went smoothly.
Soon, Anna Petraki welcomed Raki and her foster brother Aero to her pet hotel, where they raced and romped together around the large courtyard, in between snoozes and meals in their private pens.
A few days later Anna took Raki to the airport to meet Graeske Hunde volunteers for her flight. Aero was booked for couple of weeks later. (Stay tuned to Rescue Diva for more about Aero.)
What happened next in Raki’s jet-setting adventure? We asked Graeske Hunde for details, and received an email from Raki herself, addressed to her foster mommy Lynda. Her new family helped her a bit with the typing, of course. 😉
EMAIL FROM RAKI (FORMERLY HERA) ~
Hello foster mommy Lynda,
Hope you’re not missing me too much. I wanted to check in and let you know how I’m doing.
Finally the day came for my trip to Denmark. I didn’t know where that was, but I was told it was a cold country. As a Greek island girl, I wasn’t looking forward to that part.
It was a long journey. I didn’t find it necessary to for them to force me into such a stupid cage, and there was a lot of turbulence. Not fun when you’re in a cage that’s jumping up and down, but I made it. At the Copenhagen airport I was lifted up onto a trolley, still in my cage, and wondered if I was now on my way to a Danish jail!
At last the cage was opened. Two adult people talked baby language with a very strange dialect. I didn’t understand a word of what they said, but they looked nice and they had brought some treats. It’s a good start for a relationship.
It turned out that Denmark wasn’t all that cold. But it is a dark country. No wonder all the people are so pale. There is no sun here.
My new dad Michael (strange name—why didn’t he just say Michalis? I am Greek, you know) kept calling for “raki.” He probably thought he was in Crete and was calling for some more of raki liquor that they make there. But he looked at me at the same time and gave me another treat. OK, so, “raki” is the same as treats.
The next days went quite well. Every time he call for raki, I waited for a waiter to come with some glasses, but took the treats they gave me instead. After a couple of days I realized he had changed my name to “Raki,” and every time he called for raki, he meant me.
Why should he change my name? I had such a good Greek ancient name—Hera, wife of Zeus. But OK, he can call me whatever, as long as he pays back with treats.
I have been here a while now and it’s not that bad. I have found out how to twist them around my paw, and we have actually become very good friends. All the family here have promised that they will never leave me, and I trust them.
Michael takes me everywhere and he has actually given me the front seat in his VW bus. It’s nice sitting there, seeing all around me while we are driving.
All the family quickly found out that I love cuddling and love when they scratch my belly. But the adult son here really believes he can throw a stick or a ball far away, and then I will go and get it for him. What a stupidity. He throws it away, so he can go find it himself. I don’t give a hoot.
The family have tried almost every dog food on the market I think, but no thanks. I prefer a decent meal. So I just wait a bit, show them my adorable eyes, and THEN COMES THE REAL DINNER.
Now here comes my new mom. She has bought nice food for me for tonight. Can hardly wait!
I miss you, foster mommy Lynda, and all my other friends in Greece, but this is not too bad either. Honestly, I love being here.
Lots of hugs to you,
Rescue Diva proudly donated a large portion of the care and transport expenses for Raki/Hera. 🙂
We depend on sales of our romantic fiction to help create more real-life happy endings.
Please use a couple of bucks to enjoy a fun read, to spice up your life, and to replenish our rescue fund!
We also support great groups around the world, for example Kefalonia Animal Trust (KATs). They provide free spay/neuter for hundreds of animals per year–one of the best ways to prevent the abandonment and misery of puppies like Noah and Kyla.
Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Her fiction includes 17 novels for Simon and Schuster, E.P. Dutton, Avon, and other major publishers (under the name Kathryn Makris), as well as a teleplay for CBS-TV, and a short story for The Bark magazine. She has written hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for outlets such as National Geographic Traveler, The San Francisco Chronicle, Travelers’ Tales, NBC’s Petside.com, Animal Issues Reporter.com, and Examiner.com (Animal Policy Examiner).
Together with coauthor Shelley Frost, Katerina wrote a step-by-step guide for hands-on, in-the-trenches dog rescue, Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need (The Lyons Press).