Living in the middle of Crete’s hills and abundant vegetation is a man with a heart of gold who takes care of over 170 rescued dogs in need.
By, 28 Jul 2020
In Crete, pets are not seen in the same way as here in the UK. Countless strays roam the streets, many of them previously abused or neglected by humans. Most people don’t give a second thought about these unfortunate souls. But Nikos Tsikalakis does.
Little Lola is the new kid on the block... Let's find her a warmhearted familyPosted by Bronx Familia Animal Shelter Hersonissos Crete NonProfit Organisation on Monday, July 22, 2019
A passion which led to a mission
It all started in 2012, when Nikos, who was living in Heraklion at the time, found a 5-year-old stray who desperately needed his help. Nikos instantly fell in love with the sweet animal and took him in, later naming him Bronx. But he knew there were so many more dogs out there who were in the same situation, and who also needed his help.
So he moved away from the city, to Christos, and started taking more dogs in. Soon, he had 37 living in the abandoned building that he was staying in. Unfortunately, his neighbours didn’t understand his mission and didn’t like having so many dogs around them. They harassed Nikos and eventually, drove him and his pack out of Christos.
That’s when Nikos made it to a secluded area in Kalo Horio where he and his ‘pets’, as he describes the rescued strays, were finally able to settle. Thanks to the help of a generous Swiss donour, he was able to found the Bronx Familia Animal Shelter, now home to over 170 dogs.
Every dog that comes into Nikos’ care is carefully tended to. They are given a full vet check, are treated for worms, ticks, and fleas, and are vaccinated and neutered. The dogs are loved and cared for until they are adopted or fostered - some stay with Nikos forever. None are ever left to fend for themselves again.
The struggle for survival
Despite his incredible work, Nikos’ organisation is not well known, and therefore poorly funded. In fact, in Bronx Familia’s first year of existence, Nikos slept in a tent with no electricity or bathroom.
The winter was especially brutal, with the rain and snow causing the destruction of fences, doghouses, and his tent. Nikos slept on a cold, wet, mattress every night, unable to dry it. Each day he felt lost and hopeless, but he refused to leave the dogs who needed him. In a heartbreaking Facebook post, he wrote:
Living conditions have slightly improved since then for Nikos. Thanks to concerned animal lovers all over the globe, he has received enough donations to build a couple of container rooms. One of them is complete with a bathroom and kitchenette, and is able to house up to two volunteers.
What we can do to help
Things are looking positive for the future, but Bronx Familia desperately needs more adopters. There are still hundreds of dogs who need loving homes. And with more dogs joining their forever families, there will be more space on Nikos’ property for strays who need rescuing.
Julie Scourfield, who sponsors two dogs at the shelter, told Wamiz:
Nikos needs more recognition. He should be able to do this amazing work without worrying about whether he’ll be able to feed his dogs next month, or whether he’ll be able to treat their wounds and illnesses.
The work this man does is selfless and admirable. He changes the lives of countless innocents who have no-one else to rely on, regardless of the devastating impact it has on his own health and well-being. He is an inspiration to dog lovers everywhere. Thank you Nikos, for caring!