A small number of friends went down to the harbour recently to say goodbye to Robin and Gill.
Of course it was an emotional day for everyone. The four animals seemed quite relaxed, each one secure in their flight-friendly-boxes.
A final trip to the vet the following day to complete all of the paperwork and the medication meant that three dogs and the cat were ready for their big adventure.
Tigga, Teddy, Skye and Inty are now safe in their new UK home and will be looked after so well by an extraordinary couple.
Thank you Robin and Gill, you truly are great animal lovers.
Easter on Symi has been as noisy as always, the firecrackers, explosions and gunshots, thankfully seem to have finished. Anyone visiting the island over the last week will have noticed so many local customs, traditions and enjoyed an extra bonus of terrific weather. We have received no reports of animals either injured or killed by fireworks and naturally, all the rescue animals were well cared for by their new owners during this period.
The street animals too can be seen basking in the sunshine with bellies full from a continuous supply of food scraps in the rubbish bins! Families celebrate by eating vast amounts of traditional food, either oven-baked or barbecued. After serious fasting for Lent, the pulses, pickles and flat breads are forgotten, this of course means delicious meat and fish leftovers for the cats. Easter marks the beginning of a new season and over the next month, more visitors will return. Already several animal-loving friends who have been here before, have contacted us asking what they should bring over for the animals, many enquire after a particular cat or dog who they remember from a previous visit.
The visitor who alerted us to a tiny kitten, found in a plastic bag inside a rubbish skip, last September, was on Symi recently. Tasha as he named her, came to live with us and is growing rapidly. John, even though he was only here for a few days, found out where we lived and came along to see her, he was delighted to see how well and strong she now is. Tasha however, had long forgotten her 'finder' and was quite indifferent to John's obvious pleasure at meeting her again - that's cats for you eh!?
The four abandoned puppies are all doing very well. You may find one of them at French Frederiki's clothes and accessories shop, just up from the Kalodoukas office, she gave a home to the last one of the quartet. The FAROS vets are on the Island from 16 -18 April. Two animals who will most certainly be attending the surgery will be Tasha the Tortie kitten and Leon the black and white pup.
Thank you for your messages of support throughout the winter, we look forward to seeing you again later in the year.
Sorry there was no report in February, but I've been away. So much has happened during February and in the first few days of March too.
The winter feeding will continue for a while yet, our street cats are looking healthy and can be seen basking in the early Spring sunshine. There hasn't been a vet visit for some time now so small kittens are everywhere, but thankfully we haven't been inundated with stories of abandoned or starving litters. Neither have there been any reports of the horrific poisonings of previous winters.
Several weeks ago we received a phone-call from one of the teachers at the technical school, she told us that 4 tiny puppies had been dumped by rubbish bins in the Village. They were quickly located and taken to a safe, warm place - that particular weekend was exceptionally cold and the tiny creatures would have certainly perished had it not been for Claudia's mercy dash. A nearby family who had been watching our efforts adopted two puppies straight away, a third was given a home a few days later by a well-known family with 3 young children. Claudia cared for the remaining pup, we were all saddened however when new offers to take him never reached fruition. That was until today, she has just called to say that his new 'mum' is collecting him later this afternoon.
As some of you may already be aware, our friends Robin and Gill Bennett are returning to England at the end of the Spring. During the 10 years they have lived on the island, they have been very involved with Symi Animal Welfare and have cared for so many cats and dogs. Three rescue animals will be going back to England with Robin and Gill along with little Intie-dog who came out here with them back in 2000. Our best wishes to them all for a safe journey and new life in the UK.
On a sad note, Rocky the large pointer-type dog who many of you will have seen in the Village near to the 2As bar, passed away last month after a long illness. His loving owner had regularly taken him to see a vet and was very strict with his medication regime, so the old boy didn't suffer.
It sounds as if Symi is in for a very wet period with more heavy rain forecast for days on end. This is possibly the worst time of year for the street cat population as everywhere seems to be deserted. Most of the business which remained open at the beginning of the winter have now closed for a well-deserved post Christmas and New Year vacation.
Our volunteers you'll be pleased to know, will continue to take food to the 13 feeding stations several times a week and, as conditions are so bad currently, will be extra vigilant as to the overall welfare of the cats.
We would like to thank the supermarket owners for their generosity in this programme once again -
Hatzipetros donated trays of cat food
Lukas donated cat biscuits as did Sotiris
They also helped with the distribution of the foodstuffs to the Village and Harani.
The kittens and dogs rescued last year are all fit and strong. 2 pups now have a safe home at a farm in the mountains where they are being trained to work with the animals. Their owners hope that the male dog will be ready to shepherd the lambs and kids very soon.
There are four new additions at the Sunrise kafeneion - all cats. A brother and sister, a three-legged youngster who's owner moved away and Noww (named after the noise he makes continuosly)
And then of course there's Tasha and big brother Boogie who are inseparable, whether sleeping in each other's arms or chasing around the house like wild-things, they have given us many hours of amusement!
Over the last few years, we have noticed an overall improvement in the general well-being of the street cats, much of this being directly due to the fact that so many of our Greek friends and neighbours are feeding the ones which live in their area. Working together in this way is certainly beneficial to the welfare of the island's feline population, but is also a very positive and encouraging sign illustrating that our past efforts have been worthwhile.
Recently the weather has started to deteriorate slightly, therefore plans for the imminent feeding programme have become a priority, we don't want the street cats to suffer. Armed with an extensive shopping-list, I personally visited 4 of our local supermarkets recently, to place large orders - pet pasta, biscuits and canned food . The shops have also been asked to donate any foodstuffs - Sotiris in the Village has already offered a large donation. Some of the items were delivered almost instantly, the remainder should follow within the next week and then it can be distributed amongst our volunteers. We have agreed upon the locations where large numbers of street cats head towards in the hope of finding food, so far, there should be 15 feeding stations at those points in both Yialos and the Village.
We would like to thank everyone who has donated money during the summer months, it is your kindness which allows the winter feeding programme to continue.
The FAROS vets from the University of Thessaloniki are expected on the island this weekend and will be holding a surgery for 3 days. Over the last few days, we have been informed that a group of vets on Rhodes are interested in visiting the smaller islands to hold surgeries especially Symi. This of course would be a fantastic opportunity, one of our volunteers had a lengthy discussion with one of the vets in question the other day when she took a very sick animal for a consultation.
Tasha who was introduced to you last month, continues to grow. She is the most delightful little kitten and is bulging with character. She gets along very well with her cat and dog family.
A HAPPY ENDING
This is Tasha, aged approximately 4 weeks old. She was found inside a knotted plastic supermarket bag, under rubbish in a skip, in Yialos. The visitors who heard her cries, cared for her in their holiday accommodation until a suitable owner was found. A mainly white Tortie, she has a black mark on her nose and upper lip looking like a moustache - hence the name.
This isn't the first time a young animal has been heard or seen in a similar situation, the consequences had she not been rescued are positively horrific. We are grateful therefore to John and Judy who saved Tasha and cared for her so well. We'll make sure that she is looked after well.
As the season draws to a close, the availability of food scraps from restaurants will decrease, but luckily the dry, warm weather continues so the street cats won't be plunged immediately into dire winter cold and wet conditions.
Plans are already underway for the start of the winter feeding programme and so many of our friends and neighbours have a food bowl regularly topped up outside their door these days. We will try our best to ensure that the street cats survive and remain healthy to greet you again next time you visit.
One little girl certainly will!
Several of Symi's rescue animals were either born or homed during September, obviously we can't always be exactly sure of the date so, we decided to give a few of them the same birthday - September 22nd!
Delfi and Loulou in 2002, Betty in 2004, Reg 2007 and Boogie 2008
There are many more cats and dogs who, over the years, have been found loving homes, both on Symi and abroad, but for now, here are some photos of the those with a late summer birthday.
As temperatures continue to soar and humidity levels remain high, Symi's street animals constantly seek out a shady spot in an effort to keep cool. So, drivers on the island take note - the shadows underneath your vehicle could well be the coolest place in town for a cat to chill-out! Please check before you drive off?
Visitors may notice that certain dogs and cats seem to be quite thin at the moment and that their fur is dull - naturally is you are seriously concerned about an animal's general welfare please contact one of our team, so that a volunteer can check out the situation and look for signs of dehydration or injury. The animals do have a much smaller appetite during the hot months so will generally appear much thinner, but, as mentioned many times before, will always appreciate a drink of clean water, preferably from a plastic container placed in a safe position.
The glossy fur coats will return once the temperatures fall and the cats don't need to roll about in dusty, dirty and dark places in an escape from the heatwave.
Someone asked the other day - "Now that you don't arrange a vet visit, what exactly does Symi Animal Welfare do?"
Our prime concern has always been to look after the welfare of Symi's street animals and now that we have postponed UK vet visits, it leaves much more time to concentrate our efforts in that direction.
During the holiday season, we receive so many calls/messages from concerned visitors distressed by the sight of a thin dog, a 'motherless' kitten, a limping cat or dog tied up on a short rope.
Whenever possible, these situations are looked into by one of our volunteers and any appropriate action taken. One or another of us is constantly caring for or monitoring a street animal along with however many rescue animals we look after permanently in our homes!
Only this week one of our team rescued a tiny kitten which had fallen from a roof - luckily for her (not so much the bar owner she landed on!) apart from shock, the only injury was a bashed, bloody nose. She was full checked-over, cleaned up, fed and given water, kept safe and warm overnight then, the following morning, returned to her mother and siblings.
Earlier in the month a tourist, leaving the following morning, alerted us to a kitten approximately 8 days old which had been separated from the mother.
A great time 'mummy-searching' later proved fruitless so a volunteer offered to take the wee kitten home and hand-rear him. He was immediately 'adopted' by Sylvester an ageing neutered tom, who took over the grooming role. Now, a few weeks later the kitten is fit and strong with both a feline and cat mum! These are just 2 examples of the caring nature of the Symi Animal Welfare team.
During July it has been necessary to replenish our drug supplies so a list of the most essential items was drawn up - the pharmaceutical shopping came to over 700 euros. Virtually every day we are asked for general medications for ear mites, worms and fleas, antibiotics for minor wounds, treatment for gungy eyes and, unfortunately, antidote against poison.
Until a few years ago, certain drug companies would donate medicines but in recent times they have suffered cutbacks like everything else. As you will appreciate, it can be difficult to administer treatment to a feral animal, but if it is young or sick, the job is easier and thank goodness, some of our team really have a 'pied piper' scent!
So, in answer to the question, we are always involved with something, caring for the street animals of Symi. We rely totally upon donations and we thank you all for your generosity. For details of how to contact us and how to donate towards supporting our work see our contact page
Finally, if you are living here during this hot, thirsty period, please think of the animals. A clean container of water in a shady and safe spot will be most welcome!
We have learned this week of the first vet visit to Tilos. Ian and Lynne first approached me earlier in the year, they had been raising funds to try to bring a vet to the island and had contacted one of the large animal welfare charities to ask their advice. Their contact had been extremely helpful and suggested they spoke to us on Symi as we had been organising visits for so many years. At this stage, they were very naive and also nervous, they had so many questions!
Whilst the first vet and their nurse was on Tilos, Ian received a telephone call from the Greek Animal Welfare Fund saying that, as they would be in the Dodecanese area, would Tilos appreciate a vet for a few days? (This of course, was the period when GAWF had expected to be here on Symi, but as you know, had to be cancelled)
It was obviously a great opportunity for the new animal welfare group and enabled them to hold a clinic for 10 days. Over 100 cats were neutered and several dogs.
Ian told me that the whole experience had been hard work but well worth the effort. They received so much support from businesses and local residents and hope to organise a further vet-visit in September.
Well done Tilos, keep up the good work!
Not much to report this month, mainly due to the cancellation of the vet visit, she should actually have been arriving next Friday. Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of support recently.
As more tourists arrive, many for the first time, we frequently find ourselves in conversations about Symi's animals, particularly the street cats.
A number of people have commented as to how well the street cats look, especially compared to other places in Greece they have visited, this is indeed a compliment and makes us feel that our efforts are worthwhile. The clinics held by FAROS are obviously making a difference especially for animals with owner/carers, the situation currently is looking good for our animals.
Some of the house-owners however do not really like guests to encourage cats into the properties as they have concerns about the possibility of fleas or messing generally. Neither is it always the case that any future guests will approve of half a dozen strays turning up for breakfast each morning! Please consider their feelings, ask the advice of your holiday rep or agent, or the owner if you are unsure. Remember that once your holiday has ended, the cats will have to find a food source elsewhere? There is more food generally available to the street cats during the summer months as the people- population increases and the restaurants are open, the busy kitchen-waste provides a constant source of nourishment to the hungry animals. This may not seem ideal so if you really want to give them a treat, a few biscuits and a container of water placed somewhere shaded and away from cars will be most welcome - please choose a spot which is safe. If you prefer to donate towards our winter feeding programme you will find SAW collection boxes in various locations including the Symi Visitor Accommodation office in Yialos, Symi Dream photographic shop and The Olive Tree cafe in Chorio.
Already, we have received anxious calls from visitors who have spotted a cat or dog which appears to be sick or abandoned, please be assured that each case is followed through by our volunteers and whenever possible we do what we can to help the animal in question.
As March comes to an end I would like to give a brief summary of recent events in the Symi Animal Welfare diary
Martin has contacted us to say that he is making steady progress, he is now looking forward to visiting Symi later in the summer. He has been heartened by all the good wishes forwarded to him and Pam. We hope that his recovery continues.
Dates for the Greek Animal Welfare vet visit have at last been confirmed. Once everything is finalised, details will be issued.
A number of residents who had expected an earlier visit from a SAW vet were advised to take their animals along to the FAROS vets, their clinic last week was a success.
One of the winter feeding volunteers contacted us in great distress as one of her Yialos cats had a fish-hook in her gum. Souvlaki as she is known was also heavily pregnant. With patience and care, the fish-hook was removed and she was monitored closely afterwards. She gave birth to four beautiful kittens a few weeks ago and a local supermarket owner had put them in a small box. Mother and litter are all doing really well and the shopkeeper wants to take them to his warehouse for vermin-control!
Winter feeding is virtually at an end. Foodstocks dried up some time ago but most of our volunteers have continued to put out food (paid for by themselves) on a regular basis. The better weather, more businesses opening and a few early tourists will ensure that the street cats will find more scraps than during the cold of winter.
On a sad note and as many of you will have heard already, Barbie became more and more unwell and eventually disappeared. Her body was found at the weekend, her tired body had finally given up, she was too weak to roam anymore. Her most recent carers indentified her, contacted Jane with the news and arranged for her burial. SAW would like to thank everyone who has shared the care of this old lady over the years since Jane returned to the UK
Another apalling incident was the shooting, at close-range, with either an air-rifle or pellet gun, of a beloved family pet cat. This horrific act occurred near to the Village Hotel.
Boogie by the way was 6 months old a few weeks ago. Rescued at 3 days old after his mother was poisoned, he is fit and strong and has the most velvety, grey coat ever!
The whole of Europe is experiencing really bad weather currently and Symi hasn't escaped, whilst there's been no ice or snow, we have had some dreadful conditions during January continuing into February.
High winds and heavy rainfall have stopped shipping for days on end meaning that certain supplies have been quite limited. Luckily, everything required for a prolonged winter feeding programme was purchased well in advance, so our street cats wouldn't be affected should this season be a bad one. Our volunteers have delivered food to their stations whatever the weather and at some of them a shelter has been put up for the cats in that location.
A few cats seem to have relocated and certain stations are busier than others, it has also been noted that new cats are appearing from time to time - possibly whilst their 'owners' have gone away for a short holiday or trip to Rhodes - only to disappear after a while, back to their true home once the 'owner' has returned?! As yet, we have had no reports of the mass poisonings or outbreaks of disease that have occurred in previous winters which is very encouraging news.
Plans are underway for a Greek Animal Welfare Fund vet visit in either late March or early April, we have learned that the Greek vet qualified in Thessaloniki and a GAWF grant will pay for this important visit. The main objective will be to neuter feral cats and GAWF agrees with SAW that a recent increase in the cat population justifies such a neutering programme in the Spring of 2009.
We aim to maintain a controlled and healthy cat population on our Island home for the benefit of residents and visitors alike but chiefly for the welfare of these beautiful creatures. Permission from 'owners' will be sought whenever practical and we will endeavour to work alongside our neighbours as much as possible. Many of the cats on Symi however, particularly in the more remote areas are truly feral which means that we will of course be careful to return them to the same location they were found initially.
As always, thank you for your constant support.