When Lydia Ellery took herself on a Greek vacation, she thought she’d bring back some pictures and a suntan. Instead, she brought back something even better.
The Strays of Zakynthos
Ellery was traveling on the island of Zakynthos. Zakynthos is an island in the Ionian Sea, off the west coast of mainland Greece. It’s a beautiful place, filled with dramatic cliffs, quiet coves, and charming villages.
It is also home to a large population of stray animals. Stray dogs and cats have long been a problem in Greece, especially in the capital city of Athens. Authorities, rescue groups, and residents have tried various methods for dealing with them. Poisoning was rampant for a time, which is not cool. Then rescue groups attempted to capture and shelter strays and adopt them out. Unfortunately, lack of money meant that shelter conditions were crowded and difficult. And bad publicity over this led to the program shutting down.
Greece’s debt crisis has only made the problem worse. Some people estimate that over a million dogs and cats now wander the streets in Athens, abandoned by people who could no longer take care of them.
And the beautiful island of Zakynthos was not immune to the problem.
She Wanted to Help
While recounting her story to The Dodo, Ellery said, “It was pretty sad. They all looked in a bad way with wounds on their skin and covered in fleas and ticks. It was one of those, ‘I wish I could save you all!’ situations.”
And then she got her chance.
A lifelong animal lover, Ellery began to use the meal allowance included in her vacation package to feed the stray cats she encountered. One day, another vacationer approached her. The vacationer had been feeding a little gray and white kitten hiding in the garbage near the vacation property. But her vacation was ending, and she was worried that the kitten would starve. She asked Ellery to feed the kitten for her.
Ellery told the Dodo, “She could only have been a few weeks old. She was living where all the rubbish bags were piled up from the hotel, which was very unhygienic, dirty and also dangerous. If the rubbish van had picked up all the trash bags with her in them, she would have been crushed.”
What’s an Animal Lover to Do?
Ellery did feed the kitten — twice a day.
“I would sneak out fish to feed her from the hotel, and she would eat it like she’d never seen food before,” Ellery said.
The kitten was malnourished and had fleas. She was also always alone. But Ellery and the kitten soon became fast friends.
“Every time I came out she would run to my feet and sit by me — we became proper little mates.”
She named the kitten Geoffrey, after a character from Game of Thrones. (At this time, Ellery didn’t know if Geoffrey was a girl or a boy.)
But soon, Ellery’s vacation, too, was coming to an end.
“I read about how a huge percentage of strays die once winter comes, as there are no tourists to feed them, and they simply starve to death,” Ellery told the Dodo. “I couldn’t bear the thought of that happening to her after developing a such a strong bond!”
A Rescue for Geoffrey?
Ellery worked very hard, trying to find a rescue to take the kitten. She didn’t want to get on a plane without knowing Geoffrey would be safe. But every rescue she encountered was overfilled already. Just when she thought it was a lost cause, Zante Strays came through. Even though this organization deals mainly with dogs, they agreed to help Ellery’s kitten — a kitten she had re-named Aggie, after discovering the kitten was female.
The rescue took Aggie in, fed her, vaccinated her, and treated her for parasites. Then they put her up for adoption.
What Happened Next
But Ellery couldn’t stop thinking about Aggie. So she decided to adopt her! After a pet passport, numerous vaccinations, and a two-day-long boat trip, Aggie finally arrived in England. And she and Ellery have been inseparable ever since.
And look how Aggie has grown!
How You Can Help Greek Strays
If you’re like a lot of people, you’d love to help all the stray animals. But maybe you can’t afford to go on a Greek vacation to meet one. Or maybe you’re not in a position to adopt a pet. That doesn’t mean you can’t help.
If you’d like to help the stray animals on Zakynthos, visit the website for Zante Strays. There, you can learn more about the island and more about the problem of the stray animals there. Also, you can also donate to help the island’s stray animals. Your money will provide food, shelter, and healthcare for the strays. You may even find your own new best friend on their adoptable animals page!