What’s On Blog

Grappling with the situation in Greece: our team visit Lesvos

31st August

In 2019, the Wild at Heart Foundation adoption team were delighted to pay another visit to one of our very first partner shelter, the incredible venture set up by an individual rescuer on the island of Lesvos. This is one of our longest standing and best loved overseas shelter partnerships; here’s insight into the visit.

We began working with in Vassilia and her shelter in 2015 to help control the ever-increasing street dog population and we are pleased to have successfully rehomed 86 dogs to date, with the number growing rapidly!

On this latest occasion, Olivia and Meghan were fortunate enough to visit Vassilia’s shelter in Lesvos. Not only was it incredible to meet the gorgeous pups we had heard so much about and were working hard to find homes for, but it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with Vassilia who solely runs the shelter day in day out, all year round.

Vassilia pours her heart, soul and every day of her life into caring and rehabilitating dogs, ensuring that these dogs experience the love and safety they truly deserve. Her doors are always open, and the dogs are given the chance to play and socialise in a far more stress-free environment than public and overcrowded shelters. Vassilia is the reason that so many dogs in Lesvos have a second chance at life.

We were first greeted by the adorable quad of pups termed the little women; Amy, Beth, Jojo and Meg, along with Xena and Lola. Soon after we returned from this trip to Lesvos, every single one of these dogs was swiftly adopted as we had so many amazing things to report about them! In another area of the shelter we met Silke, Velvet, Nero, Pimento, Pepper and Darcy who have also now been adopted into loving homes.

Sadly, Lizzie and Mormo are two of the longest residents of the shelters:

Lizzie was rescued along with her litter of puppies nearly two years ago now. All of Lizzie’s puppies have been adopted and she has been a surrogate mother to many other litters, including my own dog, Caramel, and her siblings. She has seen many a dog be rescued and rehomed yet Lizzie still longs for her own quiet home, free of puppy duties, where she will be spoiled and loved just like all the other dogs that have left the shelter before her.

Mormo was saved from near death after being found roaming a village in Lesvos and being accused of harassing the locals. Mormo is a very excitable and intelligent dog, she loves performing tricks and catching treats, chasing after her ball and being fussed over.

After many well used years, we witnessed first-hand the state of disrepair Vassilia’s shelter now finds itself in. In order to continue providing safe refuge for these dogs, the shelter desperately needs rebuilding to allow for more enclosures so that Vassilia can rescue more dogs, as well as build a new, sterile quarantine area to help prevent the spread of disease that sadly many puppies are subject to before receiving their vaccinations, something that struck the island extremely hard last year.

Once the inevitable belly rubbing and face licking from the shelter dog’s was done, Olivia and myself got stuck in helping Vassilia with the daily tasks and soon realised how difficult the extent of the operation was to run the shelter as an individual and in the current state the shelter was in.

Vassilia continues to work tirelessly for the sake of providing a better life for her dogs. Her house is taken over by puppies to ensure they aren’t at risk of catching anything before being vaccinated. For most people this would be the dream but when you can’t take a day away from the shelter, this is a lot to cope with.

Vassilia relies on a small and close group of foster carers around the island in order to keep saving as many dogs as possible. Along with the feeding, cleaning and running various medical trips daily, she also attempts to improve the shelter through minor repair works where she can. But this is not enough.

Wild at Heart Foundation are proud to now be supporting the rebuild of the Lesvos shelter along with the kind donations and help from Matthew Lauder, another resident and keen supporter of the Foundation who lives on the island of Lesvos, and his wonderful event ‘Reigning Cats and Dogs’.

Matthew approached the Foundation about holding an art exhibition to help raise funds for a rebuild. Many years ago, Matthew found his dog, Nellie, in a desperate state, abandoned and chained to a tree, living in her own excrement. Matthew called every shelter around the island for help but it wasn’t until he found Vassilia and she immediately offered to help.

We have a lot to thank Matthew for; his ties to the island and finding Vassilia meant that we were able to forge an amazing and successful relationship, consistently helping save hundreds of dogs from a life of misery. We look forward to the future of this relationship and helping visit and rebuild the shelter within the coming months!

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