We were fortunate that the owners of Matilda, Melassa and Oscar arrived to accompany the cats home, assisted by Cordelia from Nine Lives Greece.
As you’ll know from our previous blog, the Greek authorities have implemented some new paperwork requirements. They now need additional papers from UK adopters that provide proof of ownership of dogs and cats adopted in Greece.
Animalcouriers is a UK Government-authorised animal transporter. Our licence and our van certification to carry pets have been passed by the Greek authorities. It’s our policy never to transport pets that don’t have a forever home to go to — we would never knowingly take animals to the UK whose future isn’t assured.
The Filozoikos Shelter is a registered charity, recognised by the Greek authorities and approved to export pets. Animalcouriers considers Filozoikos and its UK support group, Friends of Filozoikos, to be very competent organisations. They have a clear rehoming policy to ensure the best match between dog or cat and adopting family, and will take animals back into their care if things don’t work out. All the animals looked after at the Athens shelter receive the best possible care.
Nine Lives Greece, also a registered charity, takes a very responsible approach when rehoming their cats to the UK. A team of hard-working people in the UK supports adopters, provides advice, and will take back cats if a rehoming doesn’t work out. In Athens, the local team’s work around the streets is relentless. Cats are fed and cared for in situ, and there’s a well executed neutering programme. Only cats that would be unable to fend for themselves are taken in by Cordelia and her team.
Both charities balance good working policies and practices with a high degree of caring. The people involved take a close interest in every dog and cat they rehome, and follow their progress once they leave Athens — it’s like family.
Animalcouriers hopes this latest hitch will have a good outcome — we have no wish to go against the tide of progress that seems necessary if good forever homes are to be found for so many unwanted cats and dogs.
Animalcouriers met up with Cordelia from Nine Lives Greece in Athens Central Park. She brought Melassa and Oscar to us for their journey to their forever homes in the UK.
Once these two cats were settled into our van — where they joined Matilda whose trip had already started — we went on to the Filozoikos Shelter to collect our doggy passengers.
We were greeted by a table full of breakfast delights and freshly brewed coffee. Kiki told us over breakfast that they have 120 dogs for rehoming at the moment, plus two recently dumped litters of puppies.
Once everyone was on board, we headed to the port for our ferry to Italy, where everything ground to a halt, owing to new paperwork requirements that were brought in by the Greek authorities in February. (We’ll be posting more detail on this in the next blog.) Right now, we’re in the process of working our way through it, to ensure we can deliver all these lovely animals to their forever homes in the UK.
Along with Melassa, Animalcouriers will be collecting Oscar from Nine Lives Greece. As a poorly kitten Oscar was fortunate enough to come to the attention of a cat-lover in Athens who called on Nine Lives Greece for help. Now Oscar has regained his health and is off to a new home in London. Cordelia takes up his story:
“Last October, Nine Lives Greece was asked for help by a very caring older man who runs a parking lot in central Athens. He feeds several cats there, and sees the females constantly getting pregnant and giving birth, the kittens getting killed on the road, the males getting battle-scarred and injured — and he really wanted help to stop this sad cycle by getting them sterilised.
So Eleni and Cordelia set off with a car-ful of cat traps and set them up in the parking lot. Because the man had followed our advice not to feed the cats before we came, we had trapped four adult cats in no time.
The man told us that was all of the cats from his car-park, but that he was also feeding more cats living in the abandoned building next door. At the entrance we were greeted by the body of a fluffy black-and-white cat in the bin. The man told us that the cat had been run over that very morning. “And I’m worried,” he added, “as she was a mother cat, and somewhere in there must be her only surviving baby.”
At that minute, a tiny kitten limped out from the rubbish in the doorway of the building, hobbling along on his usual route to find the food bowl. When he stopped in his tracks to stare at us we could see his face was mostly bald; also, he could hardly walk due to something huge on his side obstructing his gait.
It was the work of a minute to lure him into a cage with sardines, and soon he was at the vet being examined. He didn’t hiss, just sat there in quiet terror as the vet diagnosed mange and a hernia. He stayed at the vet for three weeks getting treatment for mange, and waiting to grow big and strong enough to withstand the anaesthetic for the hernia operation. Amazingly, during that period, the hernia gradually shrank and finally disappeared. Meanwhile, his hair grew back thick and silky and plush, and he started to greet the vet with a purr and a tummy tickle when she opened his cage.
Finally, he was deemed well enough to leave the vet, and moved into his foster home with Rosie, a Nine Lives volunteer who had just started fostering. After hiding under the sofa for all of five minutes, he was soon exploring the house and discovering all the toys Rosie had got for him — and making toys out of lots of other things she hadn’t counted on, like hairbands, pens and newspapers — in other words, being a perfectly normal kitten! He alternates between loud rumbling purrs — he loves to lie up by your neck purring wetly into your ear — and boisterous play-fights.
His favourite party trick, which unfortunately the Animalcouriers will not be able to enjoy during his journey to the UK, is ‘Fetch’. Just throw any toy across the room for him, and he will keep retrieving it and bringing it back until you beg for mercy!
Lovely little Oscar, as he is now named, will be joining Irene’s feline family in London, where he will be able to practice his Greek with her two youngest kitties, Kiki and Ollie, who she adopted through Nine Lives in 2012. By coincidence, just like Oscar, Ollie was found as a tiny kitten with a vast protruding hernia, and his also disappeared while waiting to be old enough for the operation.
We are very confident that gregarious Oscar will bond very well with Ollie and Kiki and the others, and are so grateful to Irene for giving him such a loving home for life.”
Yesterday was Clean Monday — the first day of Lent — and a holiday in Greece. Traditionally people fly kites and eat simple food on the beach. Unfortunately, it was absolutely pouring with rain, so there wasn’t much of either activity going on.
Animalcouriers arrived early at the Greek port of Igoumenitsa following our crossing from Italy. We drove off towards Piraeus port, calling in at Lefkas en route to collect Jennifer’s cat Matilda. Then we had an overnight crossing to Crete, where we reunited Cali, Scali and Miski with Sheila.
Courier M carried Miski and Scali into the house in baskets. After a quick sniff around, they followed Sheila and courier M back to the van to fetch Cali.
At this time of year badgers, like many other animals, are giving birth to their young.
Courier R, who in his spare time is chair of the East Surrey Badger Protection Society (ESBPS), was recently called by some builders who had accidentally excavated a badger sett while digging out a swimming pool at a house in Oxted in Surrey.
Courier R collected the tiny badger cubs and took them to Wildlife Aid in Leatherhead, where they are now being cared for. As they are so young, the prognosis for their survival is 50/50.
Tomorrow Animalcouriers will be collecting cats from Nine Lives Greece and dogs from the Filozoikos shelter, all of whom are on their way to new homes in the UK.
Here, Cordelia from Nine Lives Greece tells us about Melassa, who has a new home waiting with Jackie:
“Melassa (which means Molasses in Greek) is a beautiful plump middle-aged tortie who was left as a kitten in the National Gardens in central Athens. Ever since then, every day of the year, come rain or shine, volunteer feeders from Nine Lives Greece have fed this gentle, shy little girl, along with the other 100 or so cats that found some kind of shelter among the trees in this park.
But a few months ago, five stray dogs that hang out with the policemen who patrol the park, decided to move to the area where Melassa and her companions have lived all their lives. These dogs have killed more than 20 of the cats that we Nine Lives volunteers have known and loved for years, and they dispatch any newly abandoned cat or kitten before we are even aware of its existence.
The dogs’ move to this part of the park reduced Melassa and her three close companions (dubbed the Three Musketeers) to living perched like birds in the trees or hiding in the drains. They had no quality of life whatsoever, and could barely snatch a few bites of food before the dogs would be upon them. It was a testament to their quick wits and fast reactions that these cats managed to remain in once piece for as long as they did.
We had several meetings with the park authorities and the police who the dogs accompany, but no-one was interested in trying to relocate or rehome the dogs, or even just to put bells on their collars so that the cats had more warning of their approach.
So we were left with no option but to try and relocate at least these four cats who were living with one paw in the grave. The Three Musketeers would have been desperately unhappy in a home environment, not really being comfortable with humans except for the most basic contact. We were lucky enough to find them a safe haven in the middle of nowhere on a Greek island. Here they are fed and have dry places to sleep, but otherwise can enjoy freedom and the warmth of the sunshine on their backs and the earth under their paws, without living in constant fear of being snatched by the jaws of death.
But Melassa is a more human-oriented cat. She used to be very friendly until the dogs terrified her out of her wits. When Ioanna (who has known Melassa since she was dumped as a kitten) came to visit her in her foster home, Melassa sat in her arms and kneaded her paws in happiness. She now lets her foster mum stroke and caress her after a couple of weeks’ introduction(!). She was also very calm at the vet, sitting quietly while having a blood sample taken without a sedative.
We are blessed to have the amazing support of Jackie Short in the UK, who has taken on the most ‘impossible’ cases of terribly traumatised cats and dogs, and always manages to work her quiet magic on them, bit by bit. When we sent her Melassa’s story, her reply came back within hours, offering her sanctuary for her golden years.
Jackie knows it will take time, and that at first Melassa will hide and try to escape, but she is the perfect person to help this sweet, nervous cat flourish and enjoy the safety and happiness that she has been deprived of all this time.
We are utterly grateful to dearest Jackie, and as always to Animalcouriers for making space for another cat in need, and for handling her with care and understanding.”
Animalcouriers reached the Italian port of Ancona after a day of traffic jams around the ski slopes, followed by snow, rain, hail, thunder and lightning as we drove across northern Italy!
There was the usual warm welcome for us at the A 3 Passi Hotel in Ancona, an olive oil farm that doubles as a hotel and restaurant — La Tavola del Carmine. A table was waiting for us with a large carafe of their excellent house red, at 6 euros. Everything served in the restaurant, even the grapes used to make the wine, is grown on site or sourced locally. All the ice creams, desserts and sauces are based on the farm’s own olive oil.
With some time on our hands this morning as we waited for our ferry, we were able to have a bit of a chinwag with our three feline passengers who are heading to Crete. Scali wasn’t too keen to talk, but Cali and Miski were up for a chat. They agreed it was good to see the sun as they admired the olive trees with us.
We’d been feeding them their usual mix of wet and dry food but Sheila — who knows them so well — had warned us that they might not eat very much. So we gave Miski and Scali some sardines and tuna, and Cali (who told us she’s not that keen on seafood) got some pâté.
When Animalcouriers delivered young terrier pup Indie to Jane in France yesterday, it was a very exuberant first meeting, with Indie leaping about and dashing around!
Next stop was to reunite Sid, Casper, Ben and Aztec with Martin. Like most cats, they were a little unsure about their new home, despite an ecstatic welcome from Daisy the dog, who’s been keeping Martin company in the meantime. She even gave Aztec’s face a lick!
And this morning we delivered Glis to her family. It’s the mountains and the skiing that have brought Louise and her husband and children to Switzerland.
From there we set off towards Italy, where we’ll be catching the ferry from Ancona to Greece tomorrow.
Miski, Cali and Scali have spent the winter on Jersey with Jill and Sheila. Now it’s time for everyone to go home to Crete, where Jill and Sheila do great work looking after stray cats, making sure they get health checks and getting them neutered.
It will be quite a long journey by road for these three cats but, following a less than ideal experience of getting them to Jersey by air, Jill and Sheila are keen to ensure their little family will have a more sedate ride this time around.
We had a bit of spare time on Jersey before catching our ferry to the French port of St Malo, so went to visit the very interesting medieval Gorey Castle (also known as Mont Orgueil Castle). A bit puzzled not to be asked for an entry fee, we wandered in and had a good look around. Feeling ready for a Jersey crab sandwich and wanting to check on our charges, we went to leave, only to find the huge exit door firmly locked!
After testing every door we could find and flapping our arms to try and attract attention, we finally resorted to ringing 999! The police quickly found a key-holder and 10 minutes later our very own knight in shining armour had released us.