Last Sunday morning, as Best Beloved, Sputnik, and I walked the field looking at vines and trees, BB pointed under the fig tree and said "Is that a dog?"
A dog, indeed. Black, with an amputated tail, she seemed too weak to move at first, but then crawled out from under the shade and lay at our feet. Sputnik whined and wiggled with joy. Li'l Bro appeared on his porch.
“I saw her this morning,” he said. “And she took some water but I didn't want to go near because she is covered in ticks” He gave me a bucket and I put some more water in. The black dog drank a little more, then she and Sputnik wandered slowly away together.
Back at the house, I woke Sophia. “We have a mission,” I said. “There's a dog in the field that we must take to the shelter, and I need your help.”
There was no sign of either dog when, twenty minutes later, we returned to the field in the Land Rover. We searched the cafe parking lot and Sophia ventured into the supermarket store room, and suddenly Sputnik and his new friend came into view. As soon as we opened the back door, Sputnik leapt inside, but the black dog needed help and as I lifted her in I got a good look at the hundreds of ticks gorging themselves all over her.
We arrived at the shelter and I handed her over. “What will happen to her,” I asked the lady who had scanned her for a chip. “Will she be put to sleep?”
“With no chip, she has fifteen days as long as she's neither sick nor aggressive,” came the answer. “But hunting dogs like this are very hard to rehome and she probably won't be claimed or adopted within that time.”
Sophia and I exchanged a look. “No way,” I said. “You know that your father does not like dogs and will not let us have another. Don't even think about it!”
I went back to the shelter on Monday to try and increase her chances.
“If I pay her to spay and vaccinate her, will it make her more easily homeable?” I asked Christine, who has run the shelter since 1994.
“You can pay to have her spayed, certainly, but whoever homes her still has to pay our charges,” she answered. “We have to get our money back, and it says clearly on our website that whoever adopts from here has to pay for vaccinations, parasite treatment, chipping, and spaying – about 275 Euros in her case.”
“Even if that has already been paid for that particular dog?”
“Whatever has already been paid for that particular dog.” It seemed a little steep to me, and the likelihood of someone paying that much for this dog seemed very remote.
Then a voice piped up behind my right shoulder. “What if I pay her medical bills and sponsor her for six months? Would that give her a chance?”
I turned in surprise and saw Rosie, a woman of about my age whom I always think of as kind-hearted and spontaneous, with a lot more money than sense. “It would indeed!” said Christine.
“And if at the end of that six months, if I can manage, could I take her home myself?”
But that was too much to ask. “You would have to pay the 275 Euros and 10 Euros for every day that she has been in the shelter,” Christine responded promptly.
I did the maths quickly and reached 2,075 Euros – never mind the cost of bills and sponsorship – another 290 Euros. "Well done, Paphiakos," I thought. “You've just priced this dog well out of a home.”
But Rosie was determined. “I'll find her a home sooner than that,” she said, filling out the paperwork and handing over her credit card. “Now,” she said, turning to me. “I'm off to the UK for a fortnight from tomorrow, so you need to check up on our patient for the next few days while she has her op and when she goes back to the shelter later. Must fly!”
The lady in charge of sponsorship turned to me blankly. “Well I never,” she began. Then: “She didn't give her a name!” But Rosie had gone.
“Sunday,” I said. “I found her on Sunday, so let's call her that!”
Christine made some calls to the kennels to confirm that she was still there and I heard her say: “There's someone here who wants to sponsor her, so take her of the pts list and send her over in the morning for a full MOT and a spay.” Turning to me, she said. “Phone tomorrow for an update, and thank-you very much for your help and interest.”
Back in the parking lot I dialled BB's number.
“Yes, Manamou,” he said. “What can I do for you?”
“If you say yes to this,” I answered. “I promise that I will never ask you for anything else...”
“Get to the point!”
“Get to the point!”
“You know the dog we found on Friday...?” I heard his “Oh, no!” before I had even reached the end of the sentence.
“Please, darling,” I continued, despising myself for falling back on feminine wiles. “You know I don't ask for very much, and she won't be a problem --”
“Tomorrow,” he growled. “I'll tell you when I get back tomorrow.”
I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out rehoming strategies and spoke with a friend who has contacts with shelters that rehome strays on the Continent. I brainstormed with several people linked to the animal welfare world and we came up with various possibilities to save Sunday without having to pay too much.
The next morning I called the clinic to find out how she had weathered the surgery and find out when she would be returning to the kennels. “Just hang on, Asproulla,” the receptionist said. “The vet needs a word with you.”
Within a minute, Doctor Nefeli was on the line. “I'm sorry,” she said, in her gentle Greek accent. “Your dog didn't make it.” She explained that the surgery had gone well, but that Sunday had been found dead in the clinic earlier, and that the post-mortem had shown haemorrhaging from the sub-cutaneous capillaries and internal bleeding. The ligatures, Nefeli said, had all held and the surgery had been successful: the bleeding was probably from erlichiosis, a tick-borne bactirial infection that attacks the white blood cells and prevents clotting. “I have her body here,” she said. “So if you want to collect it you can.”
'I'll bring her home,' I thought, dialling Rosie's mobile number. She answered on the third ring, confirmed that I should, and that should I be offered the money back I should use it to check Sputnik for the same disease, and roll the sponsorship over onto some other unfortunate animal who might benefit. “Fat chance of that!” I told her. “You'll get nothing back from Paphiakos!”
But I was wrong. At the clinic the vets put Sunday's body on the table, her head and forelimbs covered by a towel. As they opened the incision and showed the ligatures all in place but the sub-cutaneous layer full of blood, Christine came in. “What shall we do with Rosie's money, do you know what she might want?” I explained, and she sniffed, her eyes beginning to tear. “You'll have me crying now,” she said. “What a kind woman... Don't worry, I'll find another needy dog who will benefit. And you bring in your Sputnik to be tested just as soon as you can.”
One of the vets carried Sunday to the car and I drove her home. Nick and Stellios, Alex and Sophia's friends who had been at the house since the early morning had dug me a beautiful grave up at the top of the upper vinyard, and as I was getting her body out of the bag, Best Beloved walked up between the rows of vines and helped me to put her in the hole. I pulled back the corner of the towel and looked at her face for the last time, her brown eyes half-open, her tongue slightly out, and I remembered her as she was on her last walk the day before, eyes laughing, stumpy tail wagging hard enough to move her whole skinny body.
“Bye-bye, sweet Sunday,” I said, arranging her limbs against the squared off walls.
We shovelled the earth back in and as we headed back to the house.
This experience has taught me a lot – which I will go into in later posts: this one is already long enough. For now, though, please, dog owners among my readers, correct use of Frontline or other anti-tick products is an easy way to avoid a disease that can kill your animal. I had only just met Sunday, and losing her was painful out of all proportion to the length of time I had known her.