Whenever a crisis hits, animals are, all too often, the forgotten victims. One of the lesser-known effects of the ongoing Greek financial crisis is the impact it has had on the growing stray dog population of the country. Families in Greece have increasingly been unable to pay for their dogs’ food and medical bills, leading to the animals’ tragic abandonment.
Sometimes, these dogs are taken in by kind passers-by, as happened this summer when British tourist Georgia Bradley rescued a pooch named Pepper, who had saved her from attack on the island of Crete, and brought her back home. However, most of the abandoned dogs are left to simply fend for themselves. The plight of the ill, starving, and desperate street dogs of Lerapetra, Crete, has moved one man so deeply that he gave up everything to help care for them. Theoklitos Proestakis – known within his community as “Takis” – gave up his career as a dentist and has now been running the Takis Shelter for over three years.
He said, “One day I went to the rubbish dump and I saw horrible and crazy things there. There were so many dogs, and they had broken legs, they were starving, they were so skinny and so sick and dying. It horrified me. I just wanted to help them. So I started looking after them, taking them food and water and I was so happy when they started to get stronger. But the people who live in the neighborhood started to get really angry with me and telling me they were going to kill the dogs because they were becoming a nuisance. So I started the shelter as somewhere safe where I could keep them.”
The animals often arrive at the shelter in tragically emaciated states.
But no matter how desperate their condition, Takis is always ready to lend a helping hand.
Takis has come across many of his rescued pooches at the local dump, where they forage for whatever scraps of leftover food they can find.
His selfless devotion to their well-being is truly breath-taking.
British woman and friend of Takis’, Lesley Kackson, who has lived in Crete for over nine years, said, “I believe that the amount of dogs being abandoned now is directly related to the financial crisis. No one has one dog here, everyone has about five or six. There are a few reasons for why so many end up thrown out like rubbish. There isn’t a culture of neutering dogs here, so lots of people end up with puppies that they don’t want and can’t look after. … (Takis) works seven days a week and then goes home from the shelter and immediately starts posting photos of dogs online and trying to find them homes. But there’s not a day that passes that he doesn’t find another dog abandoned.”
Takis added, “I am absolutely alone here at the shelter. I have no money. I had to sell my car, I had to sell my caravan, I have nothing. I had to borrow money.”
The Takis Shelter has now expanded to cover an area of 5,200 square meters. It costs €2,000 ($2,275) per month to cover the dogs’ food and veterinary expenses. 98 percent of donations to the shelter come from outside of Greece, as Takis claims that local authorities are unable and unwilling to help.
Takis recently set up a YouCaring fundraising page for the shelter, and the great news is that the appeal has far exceeded its initial goal of €1,500 ($1,705) and hit the incredible amount of €23,312 ($26,505)!
An emotional Takis thanked supporters by saying, “I think that I live in a dream now! I am in shock with so much support! I feel that I am not alone anymore!”
It is a wonderful outcome for this kind man who has given up everything to help the terrified, abandoned dogs that no one else wanted to save.
The turning point for the shelter came about after Takis shared images of Fellnase, a pup who had been skinned alive, asking animal lovers for their support in treating her injuries.
Takis said, “Since I put up the photos online [of Fellnase] and the work that I had done to heal her, people have seen the pictures and want to help. I still have my shelter, and now I have hope. This is my life. It’s difficult, but I love it. I work so hard here but when I see the dogs happy and enjoying themselves and learning to trust people again then it’s all worth it.”
There are still over fifty days left to donate to Takis’ YouCaring appeal … so if you want to help secure the long-term future of the Takis Shelter and enable this incredible, compassionate man to continue carrying out his wonderful, life-saving work, why not donate today? You can also keep up with the shelter’s progress by following their Facebook page.
All Image Source: Daily Mail UK