Animal welfare is far from a priority in Greece. It's common for dogs to be dumped in the rubbish, left in the mountains or permanently chained to a barrel with very little food and water. Millions of stray dogs are left to roam the streets in Crete after their owners abandon them or they have been born on the street.
These dogs face a life of fear, hunger, disease and misery. However, for the last two decades, one man has been working tirelessly to save these abandoned dogs and make a difference in a world of indifference. That man is George Orfanidis.
Crete's forgotten animals
It was around 2000 when Geroge began to notice the growing number of animals needing help near the construction site where he worked. But it was one dog in particular that pulled on his heartstrings. The poor pup was so sick and malnourished that George decided to take it home to care for it himself. This marked the start of George's long, and sometimes difficult journey to save Crete's forgotten animals.
George would split his time between his job and looking after sick, neglected and abused animals. He would help them get back on their paws and then find homes for them. But when he found himself out of work in 2010, George chose to devote all his time to looking after animals that wouldn't have stood a chance of surviving on the street.
Selfless and determined
It wasn't easy. For a long time, George had to struggle to get by on a tiny budget. There were times that George was so desperate to help these animals, he searched for leftover meat and bones in local butcher's bins which he'd then cook with rice and pasta for the dogs.
Finally, in December 2019 and with the help of his friends, George bought a plot of land just outside Heraklion. Once they built some new enclosures and moved the dogs in, George, at last, had his long-awaited shelter, George Stray Dogs.
A second chance for Crete's canines
Today, George Stray Dogs is home to around 100 dogs. The dogs can run free, while George himself cares for 17 dogs at home. When an animal comes into the care of the shelter, it is seen by a vet who will ascertain if the animal requires treatment. The animal is then neutered and treated for ticks, fleas and worms. The shelter doesn't put animals back out on the streets. If they are healthy, they are found a forever or foster home, or the animal is cared for at the shelter.
George Stray Dogs has a simple but vital mission:
It's not just canines that George is keen to help. All the surrounding street cat colonies are cared for. Every day, George goes out to feed them, health-check them, and provide them with any veterinary treatments they may need. The organisation's ultimate aim is for there to be no more stray animals on the streets and show people just how incredible these animals really are.
George is so dedicated to caring for his canine rescues that he will make a 70km round trip every day to the dogs to deliver water as there's no water supply to the shelters. Julie, who sponsors one of the shelter's dogs is a keen supporter of George Stray Dogs. She told Wamiz:
Tommy is just one of the hundreds of dogs who owe their life to George. He was discovered living among filth and rubbish in an abandoned house. When George saw the desperate state the poor dog was in, the dog lover broke down in tears. But after months of love, care and vet treatment, Tommy has undergone a complete transformation. He's now a beautiful and happy dog who has become George's four-legged shadow, following him everywhere he goes.
How can you help?
Despite George's hard work and that of his supporters, there are still countless stray animals being abandoned, abused and neglected around Heraklion. He aims to get enough funding to start a neutering programme for homeless dogs and cats to help control their numbers and to cover the costs of neutering pets whose owners cannot afford to. But to do this while also continuing to take in stray animals, especially after the terrible storms that have been taking place in Crete, George Stray Dogs need as much support as possible. There are several ways you can show your support for George Stray Dogs:
- Donate to their GoFundMe page
- Sponsor one of their dogs
- Visit their Facebook page
- Spread awareness of the shelter's work
- Adopt a dog from George Stray Dogs
Well done George, please keep up your amazing work!