Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Painful talk with friend who keeps dog chained outside

Another dog (not Fido) who spends his life on a chain, howled when I stopped petting him and left
A golden retriever spends his life chained up—winter, summer, spring, and fall—in the parking lot of one of the island of Kefalonia’s biggest rental car companies, operated by the niece of one of my dearest friends.

Around one o’clock in the afternoon today I stopped by to see if the niece—we’ll call her “Maria”—was there so as to give her some grapefruit from our trees. Seeing the dog chained outside, I thought Maria must be in the office working. Maybe she had left the dog out there temporarily to catch some of the week’s rare sunshine.

But she wasn’t there, and neither was anyone else.

The dog—we’ll call him "Fido"—danced happily and showered me with grateful affection. When I left, he howled.

Two hours later, the dog was still there.

Five hours later, at about six-thirty, Fido had been moved to a different chain, with theoretical access to a small plastic dog kennel and a large pan of water.

But he had wrapped the chain so tightly around a nearby column that he couldn’t reach the kennel or the water. He lay shivering in a patch of weeds.

When I unwound the chain, he ran straight to the water and drank for a full minute.

At that hour, the temperature was already 8 degrees Celsius, or 46 Fahrenheit.  Forecasts say tonight’s low will be 5C, or 41F.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Fido. “I’m sorry.”

He may or may not have understood the words, but he definitely understood my touch. He craved it. When I let off petting him he’d duck his head under my palm and make it trail along his body. When I took a step away he’d glue himself to my leg.

“I’m sorry,” I said again. “I’m so sorry.”

His howl followed me as I drove away.

After getting home, I fed our foster dog Kali then immediately looked for Maria’s phone number.


First some pleasantries, inquiries about family members, wishing each other a good new year, all with the sound of a small dog barking in the background.

KM: I stopped by the office today to give you some fruit.

MARIA: I’m not there in the winter. It’s mostly closed. There’s only someone there for maybe a couple of hours in the morning.

KM: I hear a little dog barking. Is that yours?

MARIA:  Yes, that’s my dog. When I get on the phone he barks because he wants my attention.

KM: (laughing) Yes, ours do the same. It’s amazing. He lives inside with you?


KM: Maria, I’m wondering if you know that there’s been a dog chained up all day outside your office?

MARIA:  Yes, I know. That’s our dog. Fido.

KM: Your dog?

MARIA: Yes. That’s where he lives. That’s where we keep him.

KM: Oh, gosh.

MARIA: That’s where he’s always been.

KM: I’m sad to hear that.

MARIA:  Why? He’s fine.

KM: He’s very cold.

MARIA: No. He’s fine. He’s used to it. He’s been there his whole life. Four years.

KM: That’s a hard life, Maria. Especially in this weather. It’s very cold tonight.

MARIA: I know. I know it’s cold.

KM: It’s hard for dogs to endure these extremes in weather.

MARIA:  He’s been there four years. He’s fine. He’s never caught a cold.

KM: I’m glad he’s been healthy. But he’s not comfortable. It’s hard for dogs to go through weather extremes, just as it is for us.

MARIA: Lots of people keep their dogs tied up outside. It's perfectly normal.

KM: I know a lot of people do it. I see it everywhere, not just here in the Greece, but in the U.S. and lots of other countries too. That doesn't make it right.

MARIA: He’s a dog. Wild dogs live outside. They’re made to live outside.

KM: I think wild dogs and wolves are different species from domesticated dogs, canis familiaris. And even if they can survive being in weather extremes, it doesn’t mean that they’re comfortable. It can’t be pleasant for Fido. In fact I think Fido is miserable.  This is torment. We wouldn’t be comfortable out there and I can’t imagine he can be either.

MARIA: He has never caught a cold. He’s not cold. He’s used to it. We asked the vet and the vet said he’s fine because he’s used to it.

KM: If you or I or the vet were to spend the night out there, even wearing heavy coats, I don’t think we’d feel fine.

MARIA: We’re not dogs.

KM: In the U.S., many scientists and companies perform experiments on dogs to test things like new drugs, new medical procedures, the effects of smoking tobacco, and so forth. One reason why they use dogs, as I understand it, is that their physiology is so similar to ours. They are really not that different from us in what they can feel. If something causes us discomfort and pain, it will probably cause that for them too.

MARIA:  Fido likes it out there. He likes being outside.  In the summer when we try to bring him into the office because it’s hot outside, he goes back outside.  My little dog that I have here doesn’t like to stay inside. She often prefers to sit out on the balcony.

KM: I think if Fido had a choice tonight he would want to be indoors where it’s warm, and with you—with his family.

MARIA: My little dog here likes to go outside, then she comes inside when she wants.

KM: I’m so glad you have that dog there inside with you. That’s a wonderful life for her. And it’s great that she has the choice to go outside or stay inside. I wish Fido could have that type of life.

MARIA: My husband goes and moves him from the chain by the office to the chain by the dog kennel. He can go into the kennel if he wants.

KM:  Maria, tonight I found Fido wrapped around a column. He couldn’t move more than five feet. He couldn’t reach the kennel, or the water. When I untangled him, he went to the water and drank for a whole minute. He must have been stuck there for a long time.

MARIA: Sometimes he gets stuck like that but then he figures out how to untangle himself.

KM: I’m hoping you can think about giving Fido the kind of comfortable life that your small dog has.

MARIA: He’s not mine. Fido belongs to someone who works for us.

KM: He’s not yours?

MARIA: The fellow keeps him there.

KM: On your property?

MARIA: He’s the office mascot. In the summer all the tourists stop and pet him.

KM:  But in the winter?  There are no tourists in the winter. And there’s only someone there in the office for a couple of hours in the morning, you said. Fido is alone day and night. And in all kinds of weather.

MARIA: His owner is there for several hours a day at the office.

KM: But you said…

MARIA: His owner loves him. He pets him all the time. He has a little kid, and he brings the kid to visit the dog. They love each other.

KM: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the dog could be at home with his family, that family who loves him so much, and who he loves too with all his heart?

MARIA: He gets lots of love.

KM: Does he ever get off the chain?

MARIA: Oh yes, of course. The fellow lets him off and he goes running through the fields. Sometimes he goes down to the sea for a swim.

KM: He gets this exercise every day?

MARIA: The fellow takes really good care of him.

KM: I wish he could have Fido in his home with him, to spare him the misery of the cold, the rain, the wind…

MARIA: Instead of thinking about dogs outside, we should be thinking about all the homeless people who are out in the cold.

KM:  Yes and of course you’ve heard the whole saga of how back in California my husband and I are taking care of my distant relatives—the elderly aunt and uncle with severe memory impairment who used to live here in Kefalonia. You’ve heard the whole story. They were essentially abandoned. They had no electricity, heating, food. But it’s a flaw, isn’t it?  Caring?  And it just gets worse. If you open your heart to care about animals you care about people too, and vice versa. The same heart that cares about one will care about the other. It’s a pain in the neck, this caring thing.

MARIA: Fido likes the cold. You should see how he loves to get wet. Every morning he jumps into that large pan of water, to bathe himself, to keep himself clean.

KM: He’s missing some spots. After I pet him my hands were dark with dirt from his fur, just like street dogs who’ve never been bathed.

MARIA: That's because during the day he gets dirty again.

KM: I don’t think dogs do a very good job of bathing themselves.

MARIA: This is all your opinion.

KM: That’s true. Yes. My opinion. I thank you for letting me talk with you about it. It’s very kind of you to listen.  I’m hoping, really hoping, that you’ll speak with the fellow who owns Fido, and ask him to take his dog into his home.

MARIA: I’m not going to do that.

KM: It would be such a wonderful thing for Fido. And he’s a very sweet dog. So sweet. Really affectionate. He’d be so happy to live with his family, in their home.

MARIA: It’s none of my business.

KM: Fido lives chained up at your business, on your property.

MARIA: He’s not mine. He’s that fellow’s.

KM: Perhaps you could speak with him, and ask him—

MARIA: He loves the dog. He treats him fine.

KM:  Maybe you could ask him to expand his love for his dog, and improve his care of him, by taking him home where he can be part of his family?

MARIA: He is part of the family. They love him.

KM:  You said the man’s child loves the dog. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could spend their lives side by side?  Dogs will give their lives for their families—especially children. But as it is now they don’t see him very often. He spends most of his life alone. In the cold, rain, wet, whatever the weather. Their love for him must be able to make a spot for him in their home, don’t you think? I’m hoping you’ll speak with him—

MARIA: I don’t get involved in other people’s affairs.

KM: The fellow has made it your affair by keeping his dog chained up outside your office.  A very sad thing. Painful to see.

MARIA: You can’t fix everything. You can’t save the world.

KM:  No. That’s right. We can’t. But there are some things we can change and we can fix. This dog…  you could really help him.

MARIA: I don’t go there in the winter. What goes on has nothing to do with me.

KM:  He’s such a sweet animal. Really loving. You could make his life so much better.

MARIA: Dogs live outside.

KM: Your little dog must be very happy to live with you inside. Fido could be happy too.

MARIA: He’s so big. I’m afraid of big dogs.

KM: I’ve never met a sweeter dog. Really nice animal.

MARIA:  Of course he is.  The fellow bought him, paid a lot of money for him.

KM:  It’s hard for me to understand why he went out of his way to get this dog, to buy him, then just leaves him abandoned out there.

MARIA: He’s not abandoned.

KM:  Are you hoping he’ll protect the property? Is he supposed to be guarding the office? Because he’s sure not doing that. He’s very friendly. He only barked when I left, because he wanted me to stay so he wouldn’t be alone. Being alone is very hard for a dog.

MARIA: No. He’s not a guard dog. That’s just where the fellow wants to keep him.

KM:  It’s really hard for a dog to spend his life alone. They aren’t made for that. They are bred to love us. They want to be with us. They want to belong. They love being part of a family. This is torment for him. It’s like punishing him. What did he do to deserve this?

MARIA: [Silence]

KM:  Maybe the fellow doesn’t want Fido anymore? Maybe he was too much trouble to have at home, and it’s easier just to chain him up out there?  Would he like a new home for the dog?

MARIA:  No. He wants him.

KM:  I wish I could understand why he wants to have an animal chained up outside in all kinds of weather, day and night, not even on his own property, but at his employer’s office. What good is that? Why does he want the dog at all?

MARIA: It’s none of my business.

KM: Sadly, it makes your business—your beautiful car rental company—look like it’s run by hicks. That type of thinking—that it’s OK to leave dogs chained up like that, in freezing cold, and in blistering heat, and in rain, and in wind—that type of thinking is for hicks, Maria.

MARIA: [Silence]

KM: I’m sad to see this situation making your company look like it’s run by backwoods, unsophisticated folks who don’t know any better.

MARIA: [Silence]

KM: This custom of leaving dogs chained up outside belongs to the old days—to our grandparents’ generation. It’s not for us. We’ve come beyond that. This situation is making your business look terrible.

MARIA: [Silence]

KM: I’m hoping you’ll think about this? I’d be so grateful, and I know Fido would, too.

MARIA: [Silence]

KM: Thank you for listening. You’ve been very kind to let me take your time, and let me express my feelings.  My heart breaks to see that dog in such misery in front of a lovely business owned by wonderful people like your family. I very much appreciate you letting me talk with you about it.

MARIA: You’re welcome.

A few more pleasantries, and the conversation ends.

Echoing howl

It’s six hours later now, six hours deeper into this cold night. Tonight will be followed by another frigid night just like it, and then night after night for months throughout this island’s harsh winter.

I take Kali into the yard so she can relieve herself. The stars overhead seem to have sharp edges, like bits of broken ice. My teeth chatter in spite of five layers of shirts and sweaters, the jacket over it all, and the cap.  Kali foregoes her usual nighttime rat-flushing exploits and waits for me at the door, eager to get back inside to some warmth.

When I go back to typing, she hops up onto the sofa a few feet away from me and settles in for another snooze. I’m grateful—deeply grateful—that I was able to pluck her off the streets and out of the jaws of winter. But there are so many more—countless more Kalis—still out there.

Fido’s howl echoes in my head.


  1. Oh I'm so sad because there are a million Fidos out there...thank you for trying my friend. We have to try don't we? I pray for the forlorn daily and for the ignorant to have their eyes opened. I will pray for Fido"s liberation. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Beth, thank you so much for reading, for the comments, and for your beautiful prayer on behalf of both the forlorn and the ignorant. If only it could be so...

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this..
    We have the same situation here in New Mexico....dogs on chains with no shelter is a common sight.
    Many people do not have the empathy it takes to realize that these dogs thrive when they are part of our family, our pack. When they are really loved and cared for. They are not solitary beings, they love being a family member. The dogs we have rescued do not even want to be in another room of our house. They stay close to us as we move from room to room......I wish we could adopt them all....all the dogs of the world who are howling and lonely..

    1. plantpeacedaily, many thanks for reading and for sharing your insights and experiences there in NM, and about how dogs should be treated. Well said - dogs thrive as part of a pack, not as solitary beings. And yes, those rescues often don't let us out of their sight, do they?!

  3. Beth and plantpeacedaily, thanks so much for checking in with these comments. It's 5 a.m. here in Greece and I haven't been able to sleep. But your sympathetic comments mean a lot to me.

  4. I was really hoping for a happy ending for Fido. This story is a great teaching tool in providing insight about this tragic problem.

    1. Lisa, many thanks for reading and for your kind comment! I only got 3 hours of sleep the night after this happened so it was a boost to read your remarks this morning. Maybe there will be a happy ending for Fido. Yes, chances for him are as slim as they are for all the other chained and/or neglected dogs, but Maria is a good-hearted person from a wonderful family. I'll continue encouraging her to rethink.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Lisa, many thanks for reading and for your kind comment! I only got 3 hours of sleep the night after this happened so it was a boost to read your remarks this morning. Maybe there will be a happy ending for Fido. Yes, chances for him are as slim as they are for all the other chained and/or neglected dogs, but Maria is a good-hearted person from a wonderful family. I'll continue encouraging her to rethink.

    2. I removed my own comment here because, technically challenged me just realized she could reply directly the reader's comment instead!

    3. Oh my - I meant I removed my own comment above! I'll get the hang of this eventually...

  6. Chained dogs live a miserable life. Every movement they make, they are reminded of the freedom they are not allowed to have. They can't even roll over without the chain weighing on them. Dogs on chains are also a target for other animals to attack, maul and even kill them. They cannot protect themselves by running away.
    Imagine being left chained all day, all night, day after day, night after night. No protection from cold temperatures, no protection from rain, no protection from sun, the weather is your enemy you cannot get away from. From your chained location, you see people go by, you long for them to set you free, simply to LIVE. You long for being with your humans, in their home, in their lives. You long to be part of a pack again, as your species is known as a pack animal. Your days and nights are filled with longing...longing for kindness, love, warmth, a gentle hand...longing for a life OFF the end of a chain.
    "Maria", PLEASE, help this poor dog, help him have a life. He is totally dependent on humans for ALL his needs. Please release him from his enslavement. When you are with your dog in your home, where your dog is safe, warm, fed/watered and protected, PLEASE think of this poor boy who has no one to comfort him.
    A mere "existence" on the end of a chain is NO life at all for ANY animal.

    1. I'd also like to add, I view any business that would support such neglect as not a place I would do business with. If a company doesn't have an iota of compassion for another living, feeling being, I would much rather spend my money with a company that realizes they are not supporting such a cruel life for an animal.

    2. ravensrun65, thanks so much for this eloquent plea for "Fido."

  7. If it was me, friend or not......friendship is over.

    First Im hoping in my car; second Im getting the dog from that place; third I'd punch Maria in the face; fourth Im giving fido a warm bath and the best life ever for the rest of his life. Too bad this world is full of ignorant people that are either heartless and cold, animal abusers, or too stupid to realize what they are doing to animals.

    1. scubadude, thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. Would you please re-post it without the phrase about the punch in the face? We all have strong feelings about protecting animals, but let's try to persuade Maria and others like her to share those feelings. If not, even if we did all you mention, she could still just get another dog and treat him the same way.

  8. If someone does not have compassion for an animal, and know what it needs, they have no business owning or keeping an animal, this is animal cruelty. They should surrender the dog, or whatever animal it is, to someone who does know.

    Remember this, "do unto others, as you would have them do unto you".

    Compassion is what the world needs, not cruelty.

    No one would like to be chained up all their life, and not have companionship. We all need love and freedom, this is a basic need for all.

    Please, do the right thing, and release this dog to someone who will love it and care for it.

    1. St. Francis's Assistant, thanks so much for your caring comments.

  9. Please show some compassion & help this poor soul. I live my life always in anothers shoes.If I wouldnt want to live this way, than I would never alow another to live that way.

    1. Sharon, many thanks for your caring plea on behalf of Fido and others like him.

  10. I would take the dog easily. If I could not keep him with me, I would seek a new home for him. There, he can not stay.

    1. petzie, thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, the urge is to immediately get Fido out of that miserable life. The problem is that there are literally millions more like him chained up everywhere around the world. There are hundreds on this island alone. It's impossible to save them one by one. I've got a house overflowing with rescues in California. Here in Kefalonia, I've already rescued Kali, a formerly-tethered dog (found her starving and limping on the streets with a chewed-off rope hanging from her collar, as you'll see in previous posts). Am struggling to care for her, train her, pay all the expenses including vet, spay, etc., and find her a loving new home, which is the biggest challenge of all, still get my own work done, and catch a meal or some sleep now and then. Even if I took Fido out of there, nothing would stop Maria from getting another dog and doing the same thing to him. We need to change hearts and minds, including hers.

    2. petzie, P.S. your comment will help. When enough comments have been posted here, I'll print and give to Maria. If you had a minute to ask your friends to leave POLITE comments with how feel about chaining/tethering dogs, that would help too. Thanks again!

  11. "Maria" Please take this dog home, or tell the owner to take him home! He needs more love and a nice warm house to be in.. Thank you
    Elissa, from America

    1. luvmypups, many thanks for reading and commenting. Once enough pleas on Fido's behalf are gathered here, I'll show them to 'Maria.' Thanks again!

  12. I think that chaining and tethering dogs while an owner is not away is abusive, especially if the tether or chain is shorter than 15 feet. Dogs' natural instincts make them want to sniff around, go to the bathroom, and enjoy different views. Tethers restrict dogs from doing what is instinctual for them. Also, tethering dogs can create behavioral problems for the dog. If you were on a tether all day, wouldn't you be frustrated and scared? The only time a dog should be tethered is if it's temporary - like if the family is in the front yard and would like the dog to be a part of the action, they could put him on a tether so the dog could enjoy the company of the family without being able to run into the street. I think that'd be the ONLY time to put a dog on a tether - and NO MORE than 20-30 minutes at a time.

    Would I do business with a company that keeps a dog chained up every day, round the clock, all year round, no matter the extremes of weather? Whattt??? No!!!! I would try to get other people to avoid their business - boycott! What kind of life is that for a living being? The only things that should be tethered are object: balls, decorations, etc. Dogs are not decorations. They are beings that thrive on love and attention. If you can't give your dog love and attention, please give him to someone else who would.

    1. Gina and Rodrigo, well said! Many thanks for taking the time to read and to leave these comments!

  13. I understand your pain. I lived in Halkidiki on and off for 12 years. Last year we visited for a holiday only. I found a dog, a hunting dog, 10 mins walk from the main road and life, tied to a plastic barrel surrounded by her own faeces, empty rusty dog food tins, plastic bags. The man went every evening and dumped some dry food there, I saw him from my balcony. The dog wanted to be loved, he completely ignored her, he even emptied his ashtray out of the car in front of her. So, I went every day. I cleaned her water bowl, which was a big metal dish so thick with algae and dirt, with just a puddle of water squelching on top. I cleaned it best I could with loads of kitchen roll and water I had to carry there. I made sure she had fresh water every day. I bought a childrens beach spade and cleaned up around her. I threw the tins in the rubbish bins and most importantly I spent half an hour at least with her, loving her, fussing her, she was like Fido desperate for love, for some kind of contact. The plastic barrel, off the ground on wooden slats at least, but no comforts, no straw, no blanket. went to the hotel that owned her to speak to the owner. his sister was there, she would not let me see him, said he was out. said her children played every day (see the similarity of stories here) for two hours with the dog. I said I never saw them, ever. She said yes they do. I since found out she has no children. I said the dog was lonely, she said dogs liked being on their own, I said no they do not, I have six (one actually !) and they love company, if not of humans of other dogs. I said she looked pregnant (poor girl raped on the end of a chain), she said she was fat and overfed! I said her water bowl was disgusting, she said she cleaned it (no, I did). So, nothing changed, my little girl is probably still there, if I was still living there she would have come home with me one dark night, but I was only there for two weeks. When I left, I howled, sobbed on my way up the grove, I could feel her watching me, I felt like I deserted her. At first I said I would go a few times so she did not get used to love, but if you love dogs how can you not go every day? The Greeks near our hotel knew where I was going when I set off with bottles of water, food in the 80 deg heat, they knew, but they laughed, they think a British woman caring for dogs is silly. I think they are more than silly, they are deplorable. AND, my family originated in Greece, I feel shame at what they have become, a selfish nation who only cares for its spoilt noisy children and who would rather shove food in the bin than give it to a stray. Shame on them

    1. Dear Janoula, thanks for taking the time to leave this comment. I sobbed as I read it. I'm so sorry you had to endure this agony, too. And we aren't the only ones. There are millions of people like us who witness horrendous situations of animal neglect/abuse, try to help, but can't. As for the evil practice of chaining dogs, it's not just in Greece but worldwide. Fido is only one of hundreds of chained dogs I've seen just on this trip to Greece. But I think the reason his chaining disturbs me so much more is that it's being done by people with the education and resources to do much better by him. Thanks again so much for providing your sympathy and this heart-rending comment. I'll show this and all other comments we can gather to Maria in the hope she reconsiders.