Animal Heroes: Julia and Keith Preston’s contagious joy in the hard work of saving lives

Julia Preston caring for adorable Aspro from Animal Rescue Kefalonia (ARK), partially sponsored by Spicy Stories Save Lives. Photo by Keith Preston

Julia Preston caring for adorable Aspro from Animal Rescue Kefalonia (ARK), a pooch partially sponsored by RescueDiva.com.
Photo by Keith Preston

by Katerina Lorenzatos Makris / Rescue Diva ~

Hand-raising an orphaned kitten required round-the-clock feedings and attention, which Julia does with not only love but also amazingly good cheer.

Hand-raising an orphaned kitten requires round-the-clock feeding and care, which Julia provides with not only love but also amazing good cheer.

We here at RescueDiva.com felt a little guilty asking Julia Preston to take the time to tell us about her experiences with lovely, limping setter Rhea and her five “Earthquake Puppies.” It’s not as if Julia has nothing better to do than answer our questions.

But Rescue Diva helped sponsor the challenging rescue and re-homing of disabled Rhea and her pups during the temblors that rattled the Greek island of Kefalonia last year, and Julia and her husband Keith played a vital role in that project.

It wasn’t the first time, either. The couple have lovingly cared for a grand total of 27 dogs and cats sponsored by Spicy since 2008, not to mention the hundreds of others they’ve rescued on their own.

Low-key and modest, the Prestons never publicize the hard work they do.  Thus Rescue Diva felt it was high time to spotlight their enormous contributions, beginning with the tale of Rhea and her babies.

Rescue Diva sponsoree Despi got a reassuring kiss from her Uncle Keith Preston at the vet's office, as he helped her get prepared for re-homing. P.S. Despi later joined our own family here at Spicy HQ in California. :-)

Rescue Diva sponsoree Despi got a reassuring kiss from her Uncle Keith Preston at the vet’s office, as he helped her get prepared for re-homing. P.S. Despi later joined our own family here at Diva HQ in California. 🙂

Soft hearts: a blessing or a curse?

Rhea and her little brood were rescued from imminent death by Peter Lee, and ultimately re-homed abroad through an international team effort. Until they were ready for travel, though, Anta Papadatou, then later Julia and her husband Keith, provided them with desperately needed, expert loving care.

British expatriates who moved to Kefalonia more than a decade ago, Julia and Keith always stay busy at their pet hotel in the village of Menegata. Well, at least it’s supposed to be a pet hotel. Since Greece’s sagging economy has caused the number of paying customers to dwindle, the Prestons’ home and gardens in Menegata have become a de facto animal shelter. They often help Julia’s sister and next-door neighbor Pat Dolman, head of Kefalonia Animal Trust (KAT), with rescue and fostering.

On top of that, people of all stripes and nationalities sometimes bring furry foundlings to the Prestons, begging the couple to care for them for some agreed-to period of time. Because Julia and Keith are blessed—or cursed—with soft hearts, they often find themselves stuck with the orphans when folks fail to contribute the modest boarding fees, then conveniently vanish.

Thousands of hours tending to throwaways

On many nights, Julia sets her alarm and wakes up every three hours to bottle feed orphaned kittens. She dispenses medications to arthritic old-timers. She cleans and soothes wounds of both the physical and the psychological varieties.

Anyone who has met Julia and Keith will agree that they are two of the kindest people anywhere. What I didn’t fully realize until I read Julia’s replies to my questions (below) is that even after all the heavy-duty rescuing and fostering she’s done, Julia still has immense eagerness and enthusiasm about the demanding work of saving lives. Much of her message might have come from a little girl excited about getting her first puppy, instead of from someone who has logged thousands of hours tending to the island’s throwaways—healing the starved, the sick, the scared, and the sorrowful.

Julia raising yet another tiny orphan.

Julia raising yet another tiny orphan.

Expertise, devotion, and TLC

Rescue Diva sponsored the expenses of Rhea and the Earthquake Puppies–their veterinary care as well as some of their costs when they traveled toward their new homes in the Netherlands and Germany. So of course we made sure to compensate the Prestons too. Or at least as much as they would allow. For Rhea and her pups, as well as for all the other animals we’ve boarded with them over the years, Julia and Keith have undercharged us in a major way. In any case, the extraordinary amount of expertise, devotion and TLC they lavish on animals cannot be bought. Nor can Julia’s infectious joy. Nor can Keith’s steadiness and optimism in the face of even the most difficult rescue situations.

On a practical level, it’s because of the Preston’s pet hotel that we here at Rescue Diva were able to rescue and re-home the 27 dogs and cats listed below. There were times when we were over capacity with fosters at our own place in the village of Svoronata. At other times, we couldn’t say “no” to animals who we’d heard were in need, even when we were 8,000 miles away at our other home in California. Without Julia and Keith agreeing to board and care for all the animals on the list below, until we found them new families, it would have been extremely difficult if not impossible to save them.

Our island, its animals, and the people who love them are greatly blessed to have Julia and Keith among us.

Keith dispensing TLC to Penelope (front) and Julia Jr. (back) until they went to their forever families. Penelope, now named Raza, was later fostered by friend Alinda van Geffen in the Netherlands till wonderful Dutch re-homing group Stichting AAI placed her with loving adopters Valesca and Jochem. Meanwhile Julia Jr. traveled with Katerina to become a permanent member of the crazy crew at Spicy HQ in California.

Keith dispensing TLC to Penelope (front) and Julia Jr. (back) until they went to their forever families. Penelope, now named Raza, was later fostered by friend Alinda van Geffen in the Netherlands till wonderful Dutch re-homing group Stichting AAI placed her with loving adopters Valesca and Jochem. Meanwhile Julia Jr. traveled with Katerina to become a permanent member of the crazy crew at Rescue Diva HQ in California.

Now please enjoy Julia’s lovely description of how she and Keith helped with Rhea and the Earthquake Puppies…

MESSAGE FROM JULIA PRESTON:

Whilst I was in the United Kingdom in spring 2014 visiting family, my husband phoned to let me know he had taken on a mum and five pups at Katerina’s request, because the mum was jumping the fence and escaping from the foster home that had been caring for the little family.

Keith said how good they all were, and cute. By then I was a day or two off returning to Kefalonia, and quite excited about meeting them all. I asked Keith lots of questions. How big were they? Friendly or not? Colour? Sex? etc. etc.

Keith told me about Rhea the beautiful mum of the pups. He said she had a badly broken leg that was an old injury and that it had set at quite an odd angle, but she could put it to the floor and it definitely didn’t hinder her getting about and playing with her babies.

She was slightly underweight but by now had stopped feeding the pups, so it was time for her to be able to gain a bit of weight.

As soon as I got back from the U.K. I dumped my suitcase and went to meet them all. The pups came up straight away but Rhea was very timid and backed off. I tried offering her a treat. She turned her nose up at it and backed into the kennel. Rather than upset her too much I left her to settle again.

She was quite fearful of this strange woman shoving a  biscuit in her face and slapping her legs to encourage her to come for a fuss. She happily went to Keith for a stroke—she trusted him—but not yet me. Meanwhile the five others, her pups, had no trouble asking me for cuddles.

Over the next few days I continued pushing myself at her, and she continued to back off, but not as much as she did on the first meeting. She gave no eye contact, even seemed to ignore us. On a couple of occasions I had to look for her, and found her asleep in the kennel. It seemed strange that she hadn’t moved or even looked up.

Rhea was injured, starving, pregnant, and tied up to an old dune buggy till Peter Lee rescued her. Anta Papadatou fostered her and her pups till later when Spicy Stories Saved Lives boarded them with Julia and Keith. Spicy covered the little family's boarding, veterinary, and some of their travel expenses until they found new homes in Germany and the Netherlands. Photo by Peter Lee

Rhea was injured, starving, pregnant, and tied up to an old dune buggy till Peter Lee rescued her. Anta Papadatou fostered her and her pups till later when Rescue Diva boarded them with Julia and Keith. Diva covered the little family’s boarding, veterinary, and some of their travel expenses until they found new homes in Germany and the Netherlands.
Photo by Peter Lee

“Bingo!” I thought. “She must be deaf!” That would explain why she was ignoring us. If she didn’t see us, then she didn’t know we were there.

After that revelation, life with her was easier.

Her pups were a handful at times when they were out in the garden, chasing cats and chickens. Soon, though, they got the message that cats were the bosses. The chickens had a bit of a scare but soon got over it, and the pups lost interest quickly as they would sooner chase my dogs or each other.

Getting the five of them all back into the run wasn’t an easy task at first, but soon we found that treats were a magic potion with them.

They grew very quickly and started to get their own personalities. Rhea was getting to be a lot more confident with us. We realized it must be scary to be picked up from a familiar place, even though if it wasn’t a pleasant one, then to a foster home for a short while, then come to us. A lot for mum to contend with in a short time. And you never know what has happened to them before you get them. But at least the pups had only known good.

Cleaning up after them all was an exercise in ducking and diving. As we were picking the poo up they would be chewing on the spade, on our hands, scratching our legs, and in my case trying to steal my glasses off my nose. We got quite good at throwing a ball or a toy while cleaning up.

 

Rhea’s babies, named the Earthquake Puppies since they were born during the quakes on the island in winter 2014
Photo by Anta Papadatou

Feeding wasn’t the easiest job either. Mum was put into the kennel for hers, as she was a slow eater and probably wouldn’t have gotten  her share. Getting five dishes down was nearly impossible as they all would dive into the first two that were placed down for them. Then they would go to the other three. Lucky for us they were all good eaters and got their fair share or we would have had lots of problems.

It was bad enough separating them for worm and flea treatments—definitely a two-person job, with lots of chasing and trying to stop the ones that had been done getting done again, but with a bit of blackmail of treats to hide the wormer, we managed.

They soon got into a routine. When they came out for a run with our own dogs in the garden, they liked to chase a ball. But only one would fetch it back sometimes. So it was a case of us getting exercise more than them.

And our usual call of “pup pup pup” would fetch them all back from wherever in the garden they were getting into mischief.

Earthquake Puppies enjoying sunshine and fresh air at Keith and Julia's. Photo by Keith Preston

Earthquake Puppies enjoying sunshine and fresh air at Keith and Julia’s.
Photo by Keith Preston

Rhea by now was pushing herself forward for cuddles and treats.

They all were good in the car, and only one needed a quick trip to the vet’s for a lump on his neck.  Dr. Amanda Micheletti thought he might have been bitten by a snake or insect of some kind. After antibiotics he soon made a recovery, and had no ill effects from it.

Rhea and three of the pups went together to Germany to their new homes. That left only two pups who went a couple of weeks later.

They were all very lucky to find good homes. I knew they would make welcome new members of any family. They were all friendly, used to other animals and people, so they wouldn’t find it hard to settle in wherever they were going.

They came into this world under horrible circumstances, to a starving, abandoned mother during the earthquakes, and have now got happy lives to enjoy.

Sorry if this reply is a bit long and boring but hope it is what you need. If not let me know.

Julia xx

Rhea enjoying life with her forever family Photo courtesy Ingrid Kramer

Rhea enjoying life with her forever family
Photo courtesy Ingrid Kramer

Editor’s note: No, Julia dear, not boring at all. What you’ve written is exactly what we needed—a shot in the arm from a veteran rescuer who enjoys her work and adores the furry little monsters she’s so skilled at saving.

THE FOLLOWING 27 ANIMALS WERE LOVINGLY CARED FOR BY JULIA AND KEITH PRESTON, WHILE FULLY OR PARTIALLY SPONSORED BY RescueDiva.com

2006
Mumcat – sick, elderly kitty who had belonged to Katerina’s ill aunt and uncle
Vivo –  sweet pooch who had belonged to Katerina’s ill aunt and uncle

2008

Plato – puppy who Katerina found in rubbish bin
Periklis– puppy who Katerina found in rubbish bin
Ajax – puppy who Katerina found in rubbish bin
Tika – pregnant homeless kitty who showed up at Katerina’s house in Svoronata

Julia and Keith kindly adopted elderly Mumcat, one of the cats left behind when we had to take my ill aunt and uncle from their home in Kefalonia back to the U.S.

Julia and Keith kindly adopted elderly Mumcat, one of the cats left behind when we had to take my ill aunt and uncle from their home in Kefalonia back to the U.S.

2012
Mamacita – sick, elderly kitty who had belonged to Katerina’s ill aunt and uncle
Quaker – sick kitty who had belonged to Katerina’s ill aunt and uncle
Perry – homeless kitty who showed up at Katerina’s house with gunshot wounds

2013
Penelope – pooch from Animal Rescue Kefalonia (ARK)
Julia Jr. – pooch from Animal Rescue Kefalonia (ARK) and named after guess who!
Despi – pregnant pooch from streets of Argostoli, originally rescued by Jill Reverie, Stuart Makris, and Despina Galiatzatou
Kyla and Noah – abandoned puppies originally rescued by Trevor and Caroline Denton
The 4 Tuxedo Puppies – abandoned puppies originally rescued by Glenn Eric Bates

2014

Rhea – pregnant, disabled dog, originally rescued by Peter Lee
The 5 Earthquake Puppies – Rhea’s babies, originally fostered by Anta Papadatou

Thorin – homeless pooch originally rescued by Lisa Antypas

Manu – homeless pooch originally rescued by Vaso Leventakou

Aspro – pooch from Animal Rescue Kefalonia (ARK)

The Lucky 7 Puppies – originally rescued by Stamatina Karanikola, Peter Cherrington, and Peter Lee, with the help of a kind and generous anonymous donor

One of the Lucky 7 puppies, co-sponsored by Rescue Diva and an anonymous donor, in the loving hands of Keith Preston. Photo by Julia Preston

One of the Lucky 7 puppies, co-sponsored by RescueDiva.com and an anonymous donor, in the loving hands of Keith Preston.
Photo by Julia Preston

Read more about Rhea and her Earthquake Puppies:

Teamwork brings happy endings for chained dog and her puppies

Earthquake Puppies: We’ve got new names!

For info on more Animal Heroes such as chained dog defender Tamira Thayne, and for helpful articles about animal care, rescue/adoption tips, and more, please click the ‘FOLLOW’ button above. You’ll receive email notifications of our new articles. It’s FREE, and we NEVER give your email address to anyone else!

Rescue Diva depends on sales of our romantic fiction to help create  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 and the animals will thank you kindly!

Rescue Diva proudly sponsors needy animals in the U.S. and around the world.

For example we help Kefalonia Animal Trust (KAT) provide free spay/neuter for hundreds of animals per year, which is one of the best ways to prevent the abandonment and misery of puppies like Noah and Kyla.

Fun romantic story just $2 ! ALL profits donated to rescue groups!

We also do in-the-trenches rescues of angels like Robin, Chance, and Tiger, with help from San Diego Animal Support Foundation, and of Marisol and Lisa, with help from Last Chance at Life.

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).

 

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