couple who loved dogs too much...
abandoned dogs - a tough challenge in Greece|
lives in Bournemouth, but her whole life has been turned upside down by her efforts
to help stray dogs in Greece.
Her sanctuary has recently been criticised
on Greek television.
Inside Out tells her story.
When Maureen moved
with her Greek husband Jimmy to Thessaloniki, nearly 40 years ago, she had no
idea her life would be dictated by dogs - thousands of them.
were both physiotherapists, running their own private sports centre.
they had three sons, and acquired some dogs as family pets.
began abandoning dogs outside their door.
"If they see you have dogs,
they'll leave you the ones they don't want any longer," says Maureen.
and Jimmy never turned an animal away.
Helping stray dogs
is no real animal welfare structure yet in Greece, as there is in the UK with
its long established animal charities and shelters.
The problem for Maureen
and Jimmy was exacerbated by the Greek reluctance to neuter their pets, and lack
of money so to do.
And Maureen says she found other Greek attitudes hard:
buy a puppy for the children at the beginning of the long summer holidays - then
when the children go back to school, and the puppy's bigger, out it goes."
It's a seasonal variation of the British tradition of buying
a puppy for Christmas - but without national dog homes to take them in.
the Samaras family moved to a big modern house on the outskirts of Salonica, the
number of dogs grew.
"The police started asking Jimmy to collect dogs
- from road traffic accidents, or dangerous dogs, or dogs that were being a nuisance
looking after one dog is easy, two dogs okay - when it's 350, you just
The couple also made room for horses, ponies, goats and donkeys.
Most had several things in common -they had been badly treated or abandoned, and
they were sick.
Looking after them all over decades cost the couple dearly,
"First you lose your jobs, because you only
have time for the animals. Then, with the food and the medication, you lose your
house. Our house is now owned by the bank."
enough to leave were rehomed.
Foreign animal charities and some newer shelters
in Greece took large numbers.
much to cope with - the villa with its dogs|
Maureen and Jimmy
were left with the chronically sick: the reason, Maureen says, why their shelter
seems so open to criticism.
On top of which, neither Maureen or Jimmy believe
"You can treat them, use tranquilisers, care for them
- but euthanasia? Only God has the right to do this." says Jimmy.
goes against the thinking of the majority of animal charities that visited them,
including the RSPCA, and certainly did not make life easier for the couple or
for the dogs.
Maureen fell desperately ill
and returned to Bournemouth two years ago, leaving Jimmy to cope on his own.
concerns - her mother too was ill - kept her in England.
went back with Maureen on a flying visit to check on the dogs, Jimmy and the house.
was devastated. "It's terrible, Jimmy, why?" she asked.
Jimmy appeared to have lost control.
There were perhaps only 100 dogs left
at the shelter, but they had free run of the house - and the mess was incredible.
The dogs were fed, and Maureen said that bar one or two, they seemed to
Vets were due soon to check them out. But Jimmy himself felt
European charities had offered to
sort out the sanctuary, deal with the current dogs and let Jimmy leave.
Samaras - worried about the future|
He obviously longs to have
a better life than living in the one room of the house he has to himself.
want to die with dignity, with my family in England," he says.
it's not enough for him to have the existing dogs removed.
He says he won't
leave until someone takes over his unofficial job, collecting unwanted dogs from
all over northern Greece - and that is not likely to happen soon.
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