Rescuing dogs was always a retirement dream but whilst on holiday in Lemnos 4 stray puppies made the dream a reality far sooner than expected.
“If you’re taking home one dog it will be just as easy to help all four!”…….the wise words of a dear friend!
Two months later after a lot of angst trying to keep the pups safe whilst they waited for all their vaccinations, they arrived in the UK along with Lucy, a gorgeous street dog from Lesvos.
This is the story of how normal people become Mad Dog Ladies – unless you learn early on how to say no! But how can anyone ever say no after a first visit to a shelter.
On my first shelter visit in 2016 – my reaction was to cry at the calamity of the shelter from hell and the hopelessness of the poor dogs who had given up hope of ever finding a home. Most of them had already been there 3 or 4 years.
But once you pull yourself together you become inspired by the volunteers who make these dogs’ lives bearable. Their lives are as tough as the dogs but they don’t complain and just get on with doing the best job possible in the most appalling conditions.
In Lemnos’s case this was just two very ordinary women doing something extraordinary. From that moment I knew I would never want to let them down and would do whatever was needed.
And so we started by bringing a few dogs at a time to the UK to be fostered by us and from there Fiona would match them up with their perfect families.
The Snowbizz Office is right next door to our home and from Day 1 our lovely Snowbizz girls, Sarah and Jo, were helping with a steady stream of foster dogs.
A spare room in the office and the jungle-like office garden had an SOS – DIY makeover to create indoor kennel space and a safe doggie paddock in time for the arrival of 3 bouncy Labrador crosses.
With so many dogs now passing through our office it was logical that Fiona, Sarah and Jo should go and meet their shelter buddies back in Lemnos, which we did in May 2019.
Nothing can prepare you for the horror of what these dogs live in. Heartbreaking isn’t a strong enough word.
I watched with huge pride as my girls got over their shock and just pitched in and got on with what we had come for…….which was to try and make a difference somehow to the lives of the Ghost Dogs. There were just so many. Where to start?
First out were Jack and Milo. They had been kennel mates since they were puppies. Milo was shy but more courageous and Jack lived in his shadow. The dogs were happiest in the safety of their disgusting kennel but Jo and Sarah took them for a walk and by the time they returned we had all decided that Jack and Milo would become our rescue into the unknown……..The Ghost Dogs.
We had already rescued several long-term Ghost dogs from Lemnos but they had all been adopted directly by experienced families who were ready to put the time and patience into bringing them out of their shell. This time it would be Jack and Milo being fostered by us in the Snowbizz Office until we felt they were ready to be adopted.
Jack and Milo arrived with us at Snowbizz in July 2019 – their full story is here: https://www.starlightbarking.co.uk/sb-postcards-to-lemnos/doggie-dreams-do-come-true/
Just before their arrival our village postie retired and a lovely new lady came into our lives. Sophie was the talk of the village as she knew every dog’s name and became the biggest hit with the dogs as she carried a bag of treats alongside her post bag. I don’t think Royal Mail ever appreciated their amazing asset – but just complained that her rounds took so long, even though the extra hours were in her own time.
When we first introduced Sophie to Jack and Milo her face said it all. You couldn’t not be moved to comprehend what they had been through to be such quivering wrecks. We’d had our fair share of doubters who thought we were completely bonkers to be fostering such seriously shy dogs.
But not Sophie. Every time she dropped by, she couldn’t get near their crate so would just pop her head round the door. What was so special was Sophie really connected with these dogs’ back story and would give me words of encouragement which really meant a lot.
By November Milo was ready to go to his new home. It’s never easy making the decision to split up pairs of Ghost Dogs but we felt Milo would thrive as an only dog and that Jack was so much in his shadow and also needed a more chilled companion.
Milo went off to a lovely home in our next village, which Sophie also delivers to, and with a bit of time became a totally different dog.
Jack then moved into the house. He would freeze if you picked him up and still was terrified of humans and just about everything else apart from his big brother Zeus.
We had fostered quite a few dogs by then but we’d never seen any dog as sad as Jack. What was really upsetting was that he still hadn’t wagged his tail. Not once! We looked back on videos and could see the last time that he wagged his tail was in July just before he left the shelter.
Sophie was so philosophical and became my doggie agony aunt for Jack.
Then Lockdown arrived and Jack saw no humans at all apart from me and Elodie, who had got home from France just before the travel ban. She became his life-saver. So many others had tried and he’d broken a few hearts in the process but there was an instant connection and each day there were tiny milestones to celebrate.
We kept to the rules and walked the dogs once a day apart from Jack who was too scared to go out, and if we saw Sophie would wave from a distance.
Then one day in April 2020 – it was the 16th actually – Jack woke up one morning and wagged his tail. It had only taken 9 months!
Later that day he became so animated when he saw Barney and Zeus get ready to go for a walk that Elodie gently put on his lead and the rest, as they say, is history.
We saw Sophie a few days later and her beam when she saw Jack said it all.
We went on that year to re-home 29 Ghost Dogs!
Moral of the story. Never give up hope and always listen to your post lady!