Hearing about Greece, all most people think about is their beautiful white hilltop buildings with deep blue waters and the ultimate romantic destinations. But if you dig a little deeper or even visit a city like Athens, you will not be able to turn a blind eye to the large amount of stray dogs there are on the streets. Even in the most picturesque island of Santorini, you have to squeeze by more donkeys tied up on the stairways down the hillside than people, except the donkeys are tied up with tons of weight on their backs just waiting to carry someone too lazy to walk up the steps they chose to walk down in the first place. But hey, its only €5! And so is the gondola ride that also carries you up the hill… so take your pick.
It didn’t take long before we found a [temporary] solution to the problem- the Santorini Animal Welfare Association [SAWA]. Located on the beautiful Greek island of Santorini was a sanctuary for stray dogs and cats as well as donkeys, horses, and two pigs.
We took our ATV to SAWA early in the morning to be able to witness something the other volunteers warned us about- in the middle of the night, people bring animals to SAWA and tie them up for the staff to come back to in the morning. Luckily, there weren’t any new animals tied up when we got there, but it is not a rare occurrence for them.
When we arrived, one of the volunteers let us in the the dog pen where we were able to interact with full-grown dogs and tiny little puppies. Once we played around with just a fractions of the dogs, we moved to the area with the donkeys, horses, pigs, and more puppies. It was all so adorable and truly incredible being able to play around with such wonderful animals, but you can’t help but feel sad when you see the deformed neck muscles on the donkeys from carrying people’s luggage, or a horse who can’t walk on all four legs because his knee is completely mangled and his ribs are protruding out while he lays on the ground unable to move.
SAWA’s ultimate goal is to protect the animals, care for their wellbeing, and advocate for their rights. All three of these things will become apparent to you as soon as you step inside the gates. The people who find out about SAWA and get the privilege of spending time at this special part of the the island really will have an amazing experience. If you don’t have the ability to go to Santorini, there are still ways to help out the organization and the animals on their website.
Thank you so much SAWA for making our time on Santorini even better and for making the animals of the island a little bit happier!