'I'm a small woman with a big name,' says Spiridoula, the founder and guiding light of the Happy Faces Dog and Cat Rescue. Small in stature she may be but to the hundreds of animals whose lives she has saved she is a giant indeed. Born and raised in a poor village in the hills of Corfu, she learned graft and struggle from an early age. Her parents, subsistance farmers like most of the villagers, did their best to raise Spiridoula and her two siblings but at the age of eleven Spiridoula was sent to Athens to work as a maid for a wealthy family. At 18 she returned to her village and from then on worked at whatever jobs she could find. Her life was tough, people were hard. She found comfort in the company of the dogs and cats that surrounded her but was increasingly aware of the cruelty and neglect the animals faced on a daily basis. Spiridoula couldn't accept the attitude of people who regarded an animal as trash; she knew they were not.
Bit by bit she began collecting discarded building materials and gradually built a shelter on some family land, mostly with her own hands. Today she has an average of 40 dogs in her care, many with behavioural issues. Aria has been at the shelter for two years. She is small and pretty but snaps and snarls at whoever passes her pen, everyone but Spiridoula to whom she comes for a kiss and a cuddle. The same goes for Aria's pen mate Pixel, a one-eyed chihuahua cross who learned to fear people when abandoned on the road more than a year ago. Spiridoula sees beauty in this homely little guy and he can tell; Pixel responds to her and to no one else. Andreas is a big and handsome boy who came to the shelter after being abused and beaten. No one could touch Andreas for a long time but now he jumps for joy when he sees the people he knows, and loves wrestling and playing with his pen mates.
Spiridoula's phone never stops ringing.
'Spiridoula, a dog has been hit by a car.'
'Spiridoula, There are some kittens in the rubbish by the football ground.'
'There's a puppy running on the road near my house.'
'My dog had puppies and I don't know what to do with them. Come and pick them up.' To this she says, ' Why is your dog not neutered? I can't take them; the shelter is full.
But in the end she does.
Spiridoula's few volunteers have made this website to help her continue the work she has been doing for the past ten years. Money is tighter than ever, times are hard, and sponsors she had in the past are unable to continue. We struggle more than ever to raise funds for food, medicine, treatments and vet bills, neutering, blood tests, passports and transport costs in order that the animals lucky enough to find families can reach their new homes. And, money permitting, we strive to improve the facilities and quality of life for those who stay with her.
This is the shelter located in Chalikounas. The dogs are being kept in small groups in gardens, no cages. All the gardens and dog houses are handmade with everything that can be used, keeping the dogs cool and safe in the summer and dry and warm during the winter.
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