There’s hope for animals in Neo Chorio shelter
By Lisa Papadokostantaki
Visitors to Colin and Freida”s Boarding Kennels and Cattery in Neo Chorio are met by an unusual welcoming committee. Several dogs and a few determined cats introduce themselves, and only after you have passed their combined greetings and security checks are you allowed to enter the premises. The latest and most enthusiastic addition to the group is Flipper, a young brown dog who is paralysed from the waist down and uses a set of wheels to get around.
Flipper is only the latest in a long line of neglected, abandoned and mistreated animals that Colin and Freida have taken in. Since arriving from the UK in 2002, Freida estimates that over 600 homeless puppies have passed through their care.
“We travelled overland in a caravan from the UK to our new home in Neo Chorio, and brought our animals – five dogs, two cats, two horses and two ferrets,” Freida said. “Almost as soon as we arrived somebody dumped two puppies at our door. Quite soon after, Colin found a dog dying of pneumonia, laid on a rusty bed frame at the rubbish tip on a bitterly cold night in February. They nursed her back to health, and she is now enjoying life with her new family in Germany, after being re-homed through the organisation Arche Noah.
Within 6 months, Colin and Freida were firmly, if unintentionally, established as an animal shelter. They currently have 48 homeless dogs and cats, in addition to their paying guests. Animals are “dumped” on them almost on a daily basis, and Freida believes that this is symptomatic of people’s desire to “move the problem elsewhere”. Freida says “everyone should take some responsibility for the animals here. If you are going to live in Crete then you should give something back.”
They work together with Arche Noah and Friends of Animals, Rethymnon, with the aim of re-homing all these unwanted animals. They take the youngest and the sickest animals, which are immediately vaccinated and treated and hopefully restored to full health before they go to Arche Noah’s shelter in Souda, or direct for re-homing. They can be re-homed locally, or more often, sent to Germany or Denmark for re-homing there.
Colin and Freida started the kennels/cattery business in 2003, in response to a local need for people to look after the pets of expats whilst they visit their countries. Their first customer was the owner of a deaf/ blind rottweiler, which they visited and cared for in the owner’s home rather than upset it by moving it to the kennels. The Kennels frequently attracts foreign and Greek customers from Rethymnon, Iraklion and the South Coast.
Quite often, tourists adopt a stray dog whilst they are here and Freida takes care of the animal as a paying guest at the kennels and prepares it for the journey to its new family. British quarantine laws make it more difficult to send animals to the UK, and dogs and cats destined for Britain do their six months quarantine here so they can go direct to their new homes at the end of their journey.
Sometimes the new owners abroad send cards, donations and photos of their dogs curled up by the fire or playing in the park. “That is the best bit, when you get the feedback” says Freida, recalling the case of Little Nelson. “The ugly little puppy was found in at Souda port and for four days cowered in his kennel, refusing food and companionship.” Colin and Freida seriously doubted his ability to get a home because he “looked like a pig”, but sent him to Germany in the hopes somebody would love him. They were delighted to receive a card and photos last Christmas from his new German owners, thanking them for the gift of their beloved pet.
Although the Kennels and Cattery business is thriving, meeting the needs of all the charity animals is impossible. Medical supplies are always in short supply, as are animal feed and blankets. But what they really need are volunteers willing to come and spend time with the animals, and help with feeding and cleaning.
“These are much traumatised animals and they need attention, and we just don’t have time to give it to them” Freida says. “The puppies particularly need ‘socialising’ – being played with – so they can get used to people and be more friendly, thus increasing their chances of getting a home.”
Kalives construction company, Euroland-Crete, heard of their plight and is doing what they can to help. “We have undertaken a comprehensive schedule of works for the shelter, including tiling concrete areas, building beds and kennels and improving drainage” says Joy Davies, company founder. “We are keen to give something back to our local community, and, as many of our customers are deeply concerned about the plight of the stray animals here in Crete, it seemed a good place to start.”
Our interview was interrupted by Flipper barking to alert us to another visitor. “He could have been a good little guard dog, he’s always the first to bark,” Colin says, as Flipper rushes off on his wheels to greet the newcomers. “He’s probably having a better life now than he’s ever had. He has all the signs of being chained up all his life, he has the collar scar around his neck and his ear has been half eaten away by flies.” After his short lifetime spent in chains, Flipper was finally shot in the back with a shotgun and left in a rubbish bin to die. Freida says “he hasn’t regained any feeling in his legs, so I don’t think he’ll make it. At least he’s running around now and really enjoying the time he has left”.
Colin and Freida Richards “Pet Holidays” are fully booked now until January 2006, and they cannot take any more abandoned animals at present. However, committed helpers, dog-walkers and puppy playmates are always desperately wanted. If you can help, offer a home, donations or supplies, please call them at 6972 316892.