When Lena asked me to join her and Sue on their annual trip to Cyprus, I’m not sure that I truly knew what to expect. I thought I did, but as it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong and there is a lot of truth to the saying that ‘seeing is believing.’

I hadn’t even taken on board, the difference between a pound and a shelter. A pound is council run with minimal support and funding (usually for a period of 15 days per dog), whereas shelters are privately run with the help of donations and volunteers, and receive no financial support from the government. As it turns out, there are also other less subtle differences:

One of the cages at a pound that we visited:

One of the kennels at 2nd Chance Dogs – an independently financed shelter:

The three of us had a quick chat earlier and decided that it might be of interest for people to know from the heart what it is like to experience the pounds and shelters for the first time. Sue and Lena have obviously been before, so here goes…

On Monday morning, I entered my first ever Cypriot pound. Within less than a minute, the tears started to flow. I’m hiding it well, or so I think. My sunglasses hide a multitude of sins. But then Sophia (the volunteer who kindly arranged the visit and took us there) tells me that it’s too early to cry… we have at least seven more pounds and shelters to visit that day.

I think it was perhaps the noise that got to me first – this rising crescendo of dogs barking and crying out for a little piece of human attention as you enter. (I did record a short video to share, but decided that dogs on couches up and down the UK would be going nuts if I did). Or maybe, it was the smell – the overwhelming stench of stale urine and faeces. Or more likely still, it was probably the golden Labrador (“my breed”), who rushed straight over to greet me, and the story that followed.

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As you can see from the short video, this Lab is certainly not underweight. Because up until very recently, he had a home to call his own. But then his owners surrendered him to the pound – a concept that I don’t think I will ever be able to get my head around. How could anybody consider surrendering their beloved pet to such a diabolical place? Maybe they didn’t know where the dog would end up? But surely, it was their duty to check and find out?

But then came hope. Sophia (the volunteer in the video, who I mentioned earlier), had possibly managed to find a really good home for the dog. And then, *bang*. I receive the next blow. The owners have 15 days to reclaim their dog. It’s day 14, and they have come forward and indicated that they *might* like him back. But surely, they won’t return him to the kind of people who could give him up to such appalling conditions in the first place? Apparently, they will if they want him. They are still the legal owners.

Of course, this was just one dogs story but throughout the day and the one that followed, we heard more and more of the same – different circumstances perhaps, but each dog had a story of their own and not one of them would make for pleasant reading. Abandoned, abused, surrendered, diseased, and even mistreated dogs who couldn’t be saved because the dreadful conditions they were kept in were not deemed to be ‘bad enough’ by the government. They just kept on coming, like a never ending merry-go-round that I couldn’t get off.

By day two, I was so emotionally drained, I couldn’t even think straight anymore. Imagine if you will, how some of these volunteers working out here must feel. Kind people like you and I who hate to see animal cruelty and can’t stand back and just watch in the hope that someone else sorts the problems out. Day in, day out, they deal with similar heartbreaking situations and for them, there is no reprieve.

Only hope. Hope that things will improve. Hope for the dogs they are able to rescue and save. Hope that they are making a difference, and hope that by helping these dogs find their second chance in life, they will be in a position to help more dogs in the future…

Which leads me to the 2nd Chance Dogs Shelter in the Nicosia district.

Beyond all the sadness and despair, there is without doubt hope. Run by Doris Karayianni and Mario Papadimas, 2nd Chance Dogs is an all-breed, non-kill, 100% non-profit rehab and rehoming organisation that is working towards the day when all dogs are treated with compassion and respect and able to live their lives without fear, pain and suffering. And by God, it shows…

2nd Chance Dogs have in their care similar dogs with similar stories that I mention above, but there is a distinct difference to the council owned pounds. Despite relying on the generosity of people like you, they run an immaculately clean sanctuary that provides not only a safe haven for the dogs within their care, but also high quality food, insulated kennels, five large play areas, an agility zone, medical care, rehabilitation, training, and the opportunity to exercise daily and socialise with other dogs and humans.

To date, it has cost in excess of 70,000 Euros to create the state-of-the-art kennels that we can see today and the facility resembles a luxury boarding home for dogs, as opposed to an animal rescue centre. And guess what? Twenty-five percent of the figure they have spent so far, has come from supporters of Apollo’s Angels/Rehoming Cyprus Pointers, All because of Freda, and a few other local donors.

It is thanks to people like yourselves, that Doris and Mario are able to make such a difference. (Apollo’s Angels even donated £1,000 towards the ongoing project shortly before our visit).

And so thank you! From all of those dogs. Your kindness really is being put to good use and helping to make a huge difference.