Sunday, January 15, 2012

Old, arthritic Gina, a canine work of art, endures a cold, hard life on the street

Gina finds a soft spot on fishing nets
At least three beautiful things come from the Greek island of Paros.

One is the famed Parian marble, pearly and translucent, from which great art and structures such as the statue of Nike (Winged Victory) of Samothrace and the roof tiles of the Parthenon were made. 

Parian marble at an old quarry on the island of Paros, Greece
Second, there’s the work of Archilochos, known as the first writer in history to focus on inner thoughts and emotions rather than on grand epic tales. 

Bust of Archilochos, writer on Paros in 7th century B.C.
And third, a four-footed work of art, a lovely senior canine by the name of Gina, struggles to survive a cold, windy winter on the waterfront of the main town, Parikia.

Work of art, Gina of Paros
Canine art

Soon after I got off the boat during a brief visit to the island, Gina leaned against me. Straight away, she demonstrated one of the finest arts of all—the art of canine companionship—the soft, panting smile of welcome, the reassuring metronome of the tail, and the immediate, profound friendship, accepting everything I am, no questions asked.

When she got tired of standing she laid down, rested her chin on my foot, and fell asleep. 

Petting her turned my hands black with grime.

Gina needs a bath
Arthritis, traffic, and whipping winds

Getting up is hard for Gina, and so is walking. At her advanced age, arthritis can bring constant pain. Her eyes have the milky gloss of age, and perhaps don’t allow her to see very well anymore. Her response to sounds seems a little vague too. Losses of those senses can be deadly for a dog who sometimes naps in the middle of the street.

Gina’s aging eyes and ears might no longer warn her of oncoming traffic
Gina followed me to a grocery store and waited outside, maybe hoping I’d bring her something. Even though I didn’t, she seemed to remember me when I came by the next day, hauled herself to her feet, waddled up the sidewalk, and greeted me like a dearest friend.

Affectionate Gina
At night, in the fierce winter rains and winds that whip Aegean islands, her only shelter is the alcove entrance of a shop. There’s a wooden platform there that’s a little better than cold concrete or soggy dirt.

The winds lash hard even through the alcove. Gina shuts her eyes tight, shivers, eventually falls asleep, and dreams with her tongue lolling out, perhaps of the cushiony, bone-soothing type of bed that a senior citizen like her deserves.

Gina’s only ‘bed’ at night
Beloved by locals

Shopkeepers and other folks in the area say they love Gina. They report that she’s been out there on the streets for years. They feed her copiously. One doting neighbor addresses her fondly as gourounaki mou,“my little piggy.”

Gina waiting for a hand-out
While researching our book Your Adopted Dog: EverythingYou Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need, coauthor Shelley Frost and I were surprised to learn that many veterinarians believe the top health challenge to American dogs is obesity.

Gina is not an American dog, but her diet of haphazard handouts from anyone who wishes to feed her has made her grossly overweight.

According to vets, obesity can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism, easily controlled with daily medication.

Gina, grossly overweight
 Gina stinks

Though I am blessed without much ability to smell—this can come in handy for someone who enjoys the company of dogs—I found that Gina stinks. A lot. This might be because sometimes she lies in pools of her own urine, her hindquarters and tail soaked in it.

Gina lying in her own puddle
Maybe she has lost some bladder control, or maybe her arthritis has made it so painful for her to get up and walk to an appropriate potty spot that sometimes she just doesn’t.

In any case, urine burns could bring on sores and infection.

Let’s rescue Gina

Gina is only one of countless millions of homeless dogs in this world—many of them just as old and infirm as she is, and many of them in far worse condition. The hard-working local rescue group, Paros Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) has already spayed and vaccinated Gina as part of their program, and continues to keep an eye on her.

So why should we save Gina in particular?  Well, why not?  She needs it, she deserves it, and we can do it.

Also, she can serve as a perfect example, a “poster child,” for what a caring and compassionate community of animal lovers can accomplish, demonstrating that we believe that all dogs—especially old ones in failing health--deserve comfort and safety.

I’m donating 100 Euros for starters

After fostering and re-homing nearly 130 street dogs, several cats, and a couple of human relatives over recent years, my husband and I have to resist taking in more right now. Our house in California is already overflowing with rescues, both canine and human, who need all our attention and resources. But Gina has nabbed my heart, ever so gently, and waddled off with it.

To a qualified, caring home for Gina, I’ll donate 100 Euros (about $125 U.S.) then 20 Euros (about $25 U.S.) per month toward her needs.

Paros Animal Welfare Society is also searching for such a home, but that’s not an easy feat on an island of only about 12,000 inhabitants and abundant homeless dogs.

The Gina Retirement Project

If you can open your house and heart to Gina, or make a donation toward her possible transportation to and upkeep in a true home, please contact Paros Animal Welfare Society with reference to the “Gina Retirement Project.”

We don’t know Gina’s exact age, and I am by no means a veterinarian, but my decades of doggie experience tell me that with proper diet, medication, warmth, comfort, safety, and of course lots of love, Gina might shed some weight, perk up, and thrive happily for another two to five years.

An indoor, loving home?

Would you please spread the link to this article? Help find an indoor home with someone who has the available time and the love in their hearts to care for an older dog and fulfill her special needs?  For example, the incontinence problem might be cleared up with veterinary attention, or it might not.

Whoever adopts Gina must be willing and able to accept and deal with such issues, and also must go through the normal adoption screening and home check process.

Given her advanced age, it might be best if Gina's destination were within boating and driving distance from the island of Paros, so as to spare her a plane trip.

Valiant survivor deserves dignified retirement

For several years, Gina has braved the harshness of life on the streets without complaint. She still wags her tail and gives loving smiles to complete strangers. But she’s done her time out there.

Let’s provide a proper retirement with the warmth, comfort, health care, and personalized attention and love that this unheralded little work of Parian art deserves.

Gina deserves a safe, comfortable retirement

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  1. oh Gina, I hope you find a lovely home near to Paros. You have found an angel to promote you and I will share too.x

  2. Katerina, you make it so hard for me not to want to adopt all the dogs you write about! You write with such humour about a very sad subject. And the pictures you post with it make this such an amazing blog!