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How a Canadian who moved to Greece in 1986 learned that she needed to respect Greek ways before she could work effectively in animal welfare.


Community Member
Jan 17, 2024
If you work in your own country in animal welfare, you know all the rules…people’s attitude, the laws regarding animals, common complaints and how they are handled. And if you don’t know something, you speak the same language and can find out.
But when you move to a new country and a new language (I moved to Greece in 1986 and spoke very little Greek), you learn very quickly that your ideas of animal welfare whether pets or strays, are not everyone’s commonly accepted ideas. The first instinct is to try to impose your ideas. After all they work in your own country, so why not here? But this will get you nowhere and will not put you in a good position to help an animal in need. For example. You live in an apt block and in the next block, there is a dog who lives on the balcony 24/7 and barks almost constantly. What can you do? Call the police? Hmmm. Well, they might come, but even if they visit the people, it might not help the dog. They could simply abandon the dog on the street, or in the forest (a common practice in Greece) so the dog disappears but !!! Instead, you might consider visiting the people who have the dog and introducing your self and apologize for intruding but, you say, you miss having a dog and have noticed theirs and wondered if you could take it for a walk once every day. Second example. A neighbour’s dog is tied up 24/7, with dirty water and little food and is quite skinny. Again….forget the police. Approach and explain you are working with an animal welfare group and need experience walking dogs; if this works, you could very subtly change the water and give him extra food. Unfortunately, dogs on balconies or tied up 24/7 are common in Greece and it is a challenge to change local attitudes.
Is there anyone on this forum who works outside of their country and faces situations hard to deal with. For me, it has been a huge learning curve, respecting Greek people and their ideas about animals, and earning their trust and letting me offer help which is acceptable to them and which will also help the animal in need.

Dr. Jeff

Feb 23, 2017
Wow, those are beautiful, respectful and compassionate holistic actions Elizabeth.

Thank you so much for helping those pups! 😍 💚🙏

I don't have any personal experiences to share, tho it sounds like you have already been doing wonderfully (in any country).

If it's OK, I'd like to share your post and see what an animal advocate friend in Greece says.

Dr. Christina

All-Access Member
Jun 15, 2017
Elizabeth, thank you so much for reminding us that not everyone thinks the way we do and how to gently help the animals without stepping on cultural toes. Every day there are beautiful stories of people reaching out to help one individual (person, animal, plant, air, water....) with loving kindness.

When I was in Kenya, I was at first appalled at the thin dogs running loose, then I realized they were full of energy and all the children were petting or playing with them.

My friend is creating a holistic teaching hospital in Brazil and is having to learn ways to work within their culture.

Your comments apply to different parts of the United States as well as other countries.

When students of mine from the Northeast moved to the South, many were distressed by a widespread culture of seeing dogs as a commodity. "If he gets run over I'll just get another." Several found that they needed to focus their energy on the people who wanted help with their animals, and to teach young people about respecting animals.

Please, everyone, keep sharing your successful approaches and stories as each is a reminder of the difference we can make. Listening to Bernie Siegle's talks (at HA! and at allpawspettalk.tv) can also ground us in loving approaches.

Dr. Christina

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