When Valia Orfanidou first glimpsed Alma, she thought the dog was dead. Animal rescuers had arrived at the public pound in Sparta, Greece and were greeted with a horrific sight. Four hundred dogs living in deplorable conditions.
Valia, with The Orphan Pet was accompanying Save A Greek Stray to document and help the dogs in what she called a “concentration camp” for dogs. They swooped in to save the sickest of the dogs in February 2022 and rescued 44 of them. Among the dogs was Alma.
Alma was chained in the yard by a “kennel” and not moving. Valia pointed out Alma as one among the dead but a fellow rescuer said no, the dog was breathing, if ever so faintly.
Valia approached Alma, who was asleep in the dog house. Unlike the other dogs who barked in excitement at the sight of the rescuers, Alma was completely uninterested in what was going on around her. Valia didn’t know what to make of the emotionless dog.
Even after she arrived into the loving care of Save A Greek Stray, Alma wouldn’t give away anything. But what stood out about her were her beautiful, soulful eyes.
Although it wasn’t obvious at first, Alma had a huge tumor under her neck. The tumor was twice the size of her head and turned out to be a huge mass of pus surrounding a broken tooth! The tooth had become embedded in her neck likely years earlier from an untreated dog bite and the tumor killing her slowly. She also had untreated mange that was slowly sapping her strength and health.
But as Alma healed, Valia learned that Alma wasn’t a fragile or damaged dog like she had thought.
Valia learned that Alma was, in fact, a calm, steady, and gentle dog. Another tumor was found under her armpit, which turned out to be another embedded tooth. But Alma pulled through that health scare too. And as her mange was treated, Alma’s fluffy long fur grew back.
Valia decided to foster Alma a few months after her rescue and the two began the slow process of trusting each other. She learned that Alma had been a happy street dog before ending up at the hellish shelter. But Alma had not lost her affection for people.
Alma is an unusual dog. She doesn’t waste her energy on anything. She keeps it all inside. Valia notes that this attitude is what kept Alma alive and made her a survivor. She’s what one YouTube viewer noted, “a dog with no guile in her, just a calm dignity and grace about her no matter what the situation.”
Rescued a year ago now, Valia says she’ll likely keep Alma as part of her pack. “Technically she is still up for adoption, but I don’t think I am letting her go. (and it’s not that people are lining up to adopt her anyway,” Valia writes.
And given that Alma has decided Valia is her person, that’s a wonderful thing.
Valia recounts more about the shelter where Alma was found and discusses the realities of dogs that end up in shelters in Greece. The stray dogs may be free from the streets but they suffer a slow death.
But efforts by The Orphan Pet and rescue groups like Save a Greek Stray are helping make a difference.