A project that began in the Hott Spott Café on the island of Lesbos, Greece this past summer has received worldwide attention for its generosity. Each night (or morning, I suppose) at three, the shop closes its doors to the public and beckons stray dogs who may otherwise face freezing temperatures to enter.
This photo, which has been shared over 300,000 times on Facebook, gives us all a look at how raw kindness and consideration for the nation’s homeless dogs has the power to change even just a few lives.
Despite the seeming community effort to care for the dogs in highly populated areas like Athens, the animals’ treatment in other cities is not nearly as benevolent. A travel site for Aegina, Greece discusses the country’s animal welfare issues realistically. They write:
Though Greek law requires municipalities to deal with the problem of stray animals, the law is most often ignored, and it is private animal welfare groups that take up the slack, along with caring individuals who often adopt large numbers of abused/abandoned animals and care for them at their own expense.
Unfortunately, with over a million dogs now roaming free largely as a result of the Greek debt crisis, there are simply far too many for shelters to accommodate. To make matters worse, the lack of funds and nature of the culture do not support spaying or neutering.
A waiter at the café, who did not wish to be named, told i100:
In the city there are many dogs. When the bar closes each night, the dogs come and sleep here. We don’t have a problem. From July, every night there is a dog on the couch. Customers have no problems. It is a bit of a thing now—lots of people come with their cell phones.
Eustratios Papanis, the original poster of the now-famous photo, likens this sort of compassion to changing attitudes following the refugee crisis—Lesbos has been one of the main entrances into Europe for hundreds of thousands of refugees this year. Papanis said:
The locals have increased levels of solidarity towards environmental and humanistic issues. The new generation is more sensitive and well informed.
We sincerely hope this mindset continues to evolve and that Greece finds more efficient (and humane) ways to control the population. Perhaps the mass shift in opinion Papanis cites could stretch to include a more practical perspective on spaying and neutering as well.
For now, at least one dog per night has a warm place to sleep thanks to the hospitality of the Hott Spott’s animal lovers. They certainly deserve all the attention they receive.
If you would like to help volunteers care for some of Greece’s strays, you can donate to assist the great work done by Friends of the Strays of Greece. This organization tries very hard to routinely feed strays and provide necessary medical care, all while doing their best to find as many open homes and hearts as possible to take the animals in.