Sat 14 Nov, Limassol: The days are so full, of brightness and travel, of newly met people, dogs, places and experiences, that finding space for reflection, for thinking about what has been achieved, and considering what is still possible, is a challenge.
On Saturday morning I set off at 8am, on the now familiar A1 motorway south to Limassol, to meet Marina, who spends the majority of her free time as an independent dog rescuer. I have a personal reason for wanting to meet Marina; she found my own Cyprus rescue dog, Florrie, nearly two years ago, racing over when she got a call to keep the tiny black puppy from being put in the pound (a dangerous place for puppies, because of disease and the cold) and finding a foster carer, Roulla, in Nicosia, who kept her until she could be flown to England. We meet at McDonald’s, just off the motorway, to the north of Limassol. She has also made use of this rendezvous to meet up with a girl who has found a very young stray puppy; Marina will take him to the sanctuary we will be visiting. She has followed this puppy on Facebook posts; two or three successive people find him, photograph him for their FB pages, and then put him back on the streets; a common pattern, until finally, Marina persuades a girl to bring him to her.
We take Marina’s car to Cydra (Cyprus Dog Rehoming Association), on the outskirts of Limassol and meet Barbara, a German woman, who set up the charity six years ago. They are not a shelter, but work with other shelters to rehome the dogs most likely to be adopted. They also train dogs (and train volunteers to train dogs). They are funded entirely by private donations, which Barbara tells me she has worked hard to build up from a body of supporters, mainly German business men and women, who pay monthly (including herself). They rent the land, but over the years have added breeze block enclosures and offices. It feels remote, with only a handful of houses nearby, and a cat sanctuary across the road, but organised and cared for.
The premises accommodates just over a hundred dogs. Most are re-homed or fostered in Germany, but a volunteer has just set up a UK FB site which is proving successful. They’ve just received two litters of puppies and are measuring, naming and photographing them – they will find homes quickly. They also have a number of older dogs; with scars, arthritis, missing teeth and cataracts; we discuss whether these should be put to sleep to end their suffering and make way for younger dogs with more potential to be re-homed. It is an ethical question that sanctuaries have to confront, as the number of strays is more than any of them can take.
“No one supposes that one of the lower animals reflects whence he comes or whither he goes, – what is death, or what is life, and so forth. But can we feel sure that an old dog with an excellent memory and some power of imagination, as shewn by his dreams, never reflects on his past pleasures of the chase? and this would be a form of self-consciousness.” (Charles Darwin The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871, Princeton University Press, 1981).
Whilst at Cydra, the foster dog of a volunteer goes missing; later on the road outside the shelter I catch a glimpse of her, but she turns tail and quickly disappears. We scour the surrounding countryside but to no avail, until near sunset, Barbara spots her cowering in a corner of the cat sanctuary. She growls at Marina who nimbly climbs the 6 foot fence and secures her with a lead. As we are just about to leave for home Marina gets a call about a stray poodle that she’s been following on FB and we race off to collect it from a group of teenage girls who are holding it. Marina and Barbara take him to the vet’s and find he is microchipped, but the vet doesn’t have the facilities to read the number. Marina says she will check the microchip number the next day (a Sunday) and the dog stays at the clinic overnight. We return finally to my car and I drive the hour long journey back to Nicosia in the dark.