The story of our 3rd muttketeer, Leandros and his former shelter: Gouves Animal Shelter on Crete.

Since January 5th, we are the proud owners of our third rescue dog ‘Leandros’. We now have three muttketeers! I love them all equally, although they are very different from each other.

The three Muttketeers!

The three Muttketeers!

The first time I saw Leandros, was online. He was at the same shelter as our dog, Koukia came from. A friend of ours, Sylvia, is a volunteer for the Gouves Animal Shelter on Crete, Greece and she shared a picture of Leandros on their Facebook page.  This shelter is very special to us, because we have been to Crete a few times and we were always bothered by all the strays on the streets there. The last time we went to Crete, we had no clue this shelter existed. When our friend Sylvia, who is a Crete-fanatic (and Crete blogger!), told us about this, we immediately wanted a dog from them, because we knew how bad dogs were off on Crete.

The picture I fell in love with - Leandros.

The picture I fell in love with – Leandros.

I immediately fell in love with Leandros. He looked so sweet, smiling in his picture and yet also a bit clumsy. Turns out, I was totally right. He is the sweetest, calm, loving dog that I ever met. And yes, he is also clumsy, which makes sense, since he spend most of his life in a cage in the shelter.

The shelter describes this as their MISSION:

The shelter was founded in order to deal, up to a point with the big issue of protection and medical care of stray animals of the area.
The aim of this effort is to give these animals, after their full recovery, the chance to live in a loving home that will care and protect them for the rest of their lives. WE MUST NOT CLOSE OUR EYES TO THIS SOCIAL PROBLEM.

Unfortunately on Crete, animals as dogs and cats are still not treated the way they should be treated. On Crete they are still fighting a lot of problems, such as:

  • People spreading poison to kill the animals. There is a special team on Crete now, called: LIFE against Poison Crete that watches this. They have made a lot of progress so far;
  • People that don’t have enough money to take proper care of their pet and neglect them;
  • People who dump dogs all over the island;
  • People who mistreat their dogs, because they simply don’t see them as pets (the people that live in the cities seem to take better care of their pets, than the people that live in the small villages. The people that live in the mountains see their dogs as hunters, not as pets);
  • People who keep dogs to guard construction sites and don’t take proper care of them: no cover from the sun, not enough water and food (watch out, helping them by taking them away is considered theft!).

Of course neglecting a dog is considered a crime on Crete as well.

A big part of the problem is that a the Greek-Orthodox community believes that they are not allowed to neuter or spay their pets, because God wants the animals to stay the way they are. They think they have to let run nature it’s course. If every owner would get their dog neutered or spayed (same as their cats!) a big part of the problem would be solved. Of course there’s always the money problem. Many Greeks don’t have the money to pay for the procedure at the vet.

There are a lot of tourists that have the same feeling we had, while on Crete. Here are some stories about other people adopting dogs from Crete.

This is what the shelter looks like:

It is kind of a miracle how one man, mr. Manolis, has dedicated his whole life to this shelter. He does everything without a cent of government funding. A while ago, he needed surgery, but he didn’t want to leave all the pets alone. In the end people raised money to make sure someone else could take over this responsible task, so Mr. Manolis could finally get his surgery. Niki and many other volunteers help out at the shelter, every day.

Mr. Manolis - Gouves Animal Shelter's Angel.

Mr. Manolis – Gouves Animal Shelter’s Angel.

If you ever go to Crete (I will, if I ever go there again!), please make sure to go to the shelter for at least one day of your vacation, to help these poor dogs and the volunteers out. If you can’t go to Crete or the shelter, please consider DONATING to help them out.  The shelter is based in an old American Airbase.

On our way in the car.

On our way in the car.

Of course it isn’t the most common way to adopt a dog, all the way from Crete, Greece, to the United States. We knew it would take a lot from Leandros as well, but he had been at the shelter for so long (about 4 years!), waiting for someone to take him home. For some reason nobody ever wanted to adopt him. The only reason I can think of, is because he tested positive for leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease. A veterinarian I spoke to, told me that you can basically compare it to HIV/AIDS in humans. I just can’t believe that this disease would hold people back from adopting him.

Zylapour - Leandros' medication.

Zylapour – Leandros’ medication.

The disease is NOT contagious to other dogs or humans. It does require medication every day. Our Leandros is on Zylapour 300mg (Allopurinol). He gets half a tablet in the morning and half a tablet in the evening. This medication is not expense at all, it costs 4,57 euro per 30 tablets (in Greece).

Leandros’ trip from the island of Crete to Chicago, Illinois was a long, but well thought-out plan. Our friend Sylvia (who’s also a volunteer at Gouves Animal Shelter) took care of the trip to the Netherlands. We took care of the rest of his trip, together with another volunteer, Debby. He left Crete on December 4th to travel to Dusseldorf, in Germany. Friends of Debby picked him up from the airport and brought him to Venlo, a city in the South of the Netherlands.

Leandros stayed with Debby and her family (thanks so much for all you guys did!) until January 4th. They took very good care of him. He had learned a lot from them already. We flew to the Netherlands, and went for a beautiful walk with Leandros on December 30th. We immediately loved him. He was such a good dog. We picked Leandros up in Venlo on January 4th, and took him to a hotel near Schiphol Airport. It was hard for Debby and her family to say goodbye to him, I will be forever thankful to them. On January 5th, very early in the morning, my husband brought Leandros to the company that would take care of him, until he could board on our plane to Chicago.

Leandros at out hotel room.

Leandros at out hotel room.

This trip required a lot of planning, calling and waiting. At first I had to find out if Leandros, with his leishmaniasis, would be okay to travel to the U.S. This might have been the hardest part, because who ever I emailed or called, it seemed as if nobody knew what to do with my question. This does make sense, since leishmaniasis is a very rare disease in dogs in the U.S., however I was hoping someone could at least point me to the right organization to get an answer. In the end I got an answer from a lady, who was the Zoonoses Team Lead of the CDC.

She told me that Leandros was good to go, if:

he had a valid rabies vaccination certificate, issued by a licensed veterinarian. 

This certificate should include the following information:

  • Name and address of owner.
  • description of the dog (breed, sex, date of birth, color, markings, and other identifying information)
  • the date of rabies vaccination and vaccine product information
  • the date the vaccine expires
  • name, license number, address, and signature of veterinarian who administered the vaccination.

There were no regulations regarding leishmaniasis specifically, but:

  • the dog must appear healthy upon entry
  • may be inspected by a customs officer
  • and they recommended traveling with a letter from the veterinarian stating how the dog was diagnosed (i.e. what test), with what medications it has been treated with, and that it’s fit for travel in cargo hold of an airplane.
  • they recommended a hard copy of the e-mail I got, to provide to the customs officer if needed.

She then provided me with her contact information if needed. Luckily we didn’t need that at all.

Other things we had to take care off were:

  • a certified  IATA transport kennel (in the right size and it had to have screws!, Sylvia took care of that)
  • a dog behavior specialist to make sure Leandros would get the best chance possible to fit in, in our family. We found a great behavior specialist at Muttz Gym, I would highly recommend Tracy Bruinsma. She told us how to deal with the dogs when Leandros arrived and she came by for 4 more training sessions with all three dogs.
  • an organization that could transport Leandros for us, while traveling with United. We found those experts in Zoologistics, a company based in Hoofddorp. They needed a lot of information. We had to buy a special drinking bottle and a liner for in the kennel. They needed pictures of the kennel. Filling out their forms took hours. It also costed a lot of money. Wow! We could have had a nice vacation for the same amount (we paid for the United Airline Freight Charges, a pet fee, a fee for them taking care of Leandros and bringing him to United, an extra fee because this would take place after office hours and later on they even charged an extra fee, on top of everything we had already paid, for Leandros to get cleared at customs in the U.S.)
  • looking up the address where we had to pick up Leandros after our flight (United Pet Cargo). The actual pick up took hours. That wasn’t so nice, after such a long flight, especially not for Leandros. When he finally arrived, the told us we didn’t pay for the customs clearing. That mistake that zoologistics made, by putting the charges on the bill, but not naming them correctly, costed us an extra long wait.
  • a hotel near the airport that was okay with dogs in their rooms, we stayed at the Hilton Amsterdam Airport Hotel. Leandros was very impressed by the big building, and all the noises that came with it, especially when a group of young male adults thought it was funny to scare him even more (my husband calmly explained to them why he was behaving this way, that shut those …. up).
  • searching a veterinarian in the U.S. that is willing to learn about leishmaniasis, since this isn’t a common disease in the U.S. We found a great one, five minutes from our house.

As you can see, this wasn’t easy to deal with. Meanwhile we were also busy with our move in the U.S., our trip to the Netherlands, the passing of my sister, my spouse still had to work, but it seems as if things always go that way in our family. And we still survived.

He loves snow!

He loves snow!

Right now Leandros is doing super well! He keeps becoming more himself by the day. I am so happy with the tiny steps he takes. Yesterday, for example, I was celebrating him pooping, while being walked together with his brother and sister. I know this sounds silly, and my neighbors probably thought that I lost it, but it is a HUGE accomplishment for a dog like Leandros.



He already went from lying underneath a table the whole day, to greeting visitors. They are playing with the three of them now. The are licking each other and sharing toys and treats. He is walking the stairs. He loves to cuddle. We are just so lucky to have him!

Please give Gouves Animal Shelter a follow on Twitter.

Cuddling! He loves it, and me too.

Cuddling! He loves it, and me too.

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