Jan’s Animal Shelter Experience in Greece

volunteering in greek dog shelter

We are again happy to share some first-hand insights from volunteers on the field! Today it’s Jan, 38, from Germany – staying for two weeks on Crete, supporting a Greek dog shelter in Gouves. Let’s learn more about his planning, his first impressions, and his overall conclusion:

How did you start planning for your trip to Greece?

It all started in April 2022, three months before the start of my trip. It became clear that I would be vacationing alone this time. Still in Germany, I searched for a nice vacation that came with joyful and meaningful activities. At the same time creating the opportunity to spend a nice time among cosmopolitan people and finally improve the world of dogs and cats. So I registered with Jamso Trainee through Volunteer World and organized everything that was necessary. Afterward, I avoided (as I always do) informing myself too much about what was coming… After all, excitement is a must.

How was your arrival in Greece?

sunset on creteI arrived in the evening at the airport in Iraklion and drove to the fantastic accommodation (large room with bathroom, distance to the sea 25m … simply brilliant) and treated myself there to a proper dinner (there are sandwiches, pizza and much more … I had sandwiches that evening) with a cocktail and soft drink at the pool and enjoyed swimming. Two volunteers from the animal shelter had previously warmly welcomed me into their little circle.

What did everyday life look like?

The next morning we finally started with an early shift. Ten minutes walk directly by the sea, a short briefing (everything in English), and off we went. Important to the shelter is the hygiene, which at first takes some getting used to (don’t get me wrong, but you pick up a lot of the stuff that looks like chocolate but is not), but then is also quickly forgotten. With love, joy, and an endless amount of hugs I went from cage to cage and immediately took the animals in my arms and my heart. I could go even deeper into the work content for you now, but I prefer to enumerate it in a short format:

  • Handing out food bowls,
  • collecting food bowls, cleaning, cleaning cages again
  • and taking the puppies to the garden so they can play.

greek dog shelterAfter that, you have to go to the Animal Shelter and see what’s going on and take care of it. I took a lot of time during these moments and sat next to the dogs in the cage, which have lost trust in men or even in humans. An, in my opinion, important and great task and if successes occur… (they did ๐Ÿ˜Š), it is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. The rest of the day I took the dogs for a walk to the ocean and sometimes into the ocean, then sat down at a cafรฉ. This gave the dogs a 15-minute break from all the barking and the infinite attention span that dogs have. Just before the end of the shift, I signed up for the shift list based on a healthy mix of early and late shifts.

Basically, it meant five days of work รก five-hour shifts and two days for free use. The midday shift felt a bit more relaxed, due to the fact that the cage cleanings and feedings were already done. The hot midday sun resulted in a siesta. Having fewer tasks on hand, I could sit in the cages of frightened animals to give them (I call it) “therapy” with the help of treats.

What would you tell your friends and family about your stay?

The two weeks went by way too fast and I made a lot of animal and human friends. One thing I want to get off my chest: from my status on social media, my friends could see what I was doing and ask if I was seeing a lot of suffering. But my answer was always that I see and experience just the opposite: “There was only an abundance of love and joy”.
If you are still undecided if this volunteering is for you, just ask yourself if you like warmth and love animals. I hope your answer is a big “YES” with an exclamation mark! Then off you go and enjoy your time. –Jan

Thanks, Jan, for your insights! Greece definitely is a bucket list destination. Next to animal shelters, a number of marine life projects are perfect for adult volunteers as well as teenagers looking for a project in Europe. Photo credits: Jan Buddelmann

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