If you've ever been to Greece you'll surely remember seeing stray cats
almost everywhere you went. Well, during my recent holiday on the island
of Paros, Greece I came upon a stray cat who has some how managed to survive for over 12 years; that in itself is nothing
short of a miracle! Most strays don't live more than a couple of years because
they are sooner or later gotten rid of by mass poisoning; even owned animals fall to this fate as food laced with poison (and
even glass) is indiscremently tossed about during the night.
Being around for so many years, this cat actually has a name Ion (pronounced
'Eon') and, lucky for him, he's tolerated at the local restaurants because he's so well mannered, sitting patiently by your
table waiting for a few morsels of food and a pat on the head.
This brings me to tell you about Ion's problem; he has only one eye
- there is an open hole where his right eye used to be. Apparently it's
been missing for at least a couple of years but no one cared enough about him to take him to a vet for medical attention.
When I saw this I just had to help so I booked an appointment with the local vet. If
nothing else, it will give him a little better quality of life for whatever time he has left.
I also have great concern whether he can survive another winter on his own. Most of the locals move further inland
from October to late Spring with only a few remaining in the tourist areas to put out food for the strays. If Ion (or any stray) isn't there at exactly the time food is put out, he'll not get anything to eat, possibly
going without food or water for several days at a time.
Ion's appointment was scheduled for 1:15 pm and we were out of the
vet's office by 1:45 pm with Ion still unconscious from the anaesthetic and wearing a collar and cone! Fortunately I have a background in working at a veterinary office as well as at a local humane society
so am familiar with animal care and numerous injuries they might sustain, helping me to take this situation in stride (although
a few of the locals were a little uncomfortable seeing him like this).
There wasn't anything else I could do but wait for him to wake up so
I took him back to our hotel room. Around 5 pm he started to wake up and, even
though he was falling every which way, he was determined to check out our room, just as any cat would do in new surroundings. By 9 pm he was totally back to normal; what a relief!
The vet recommended he wear a collar & cone for 2 weeks so, after sleeping on my pillow that first night, I carried
him back to his favourite restaurant and let him wander off to be in his own environment for the day, thinking he would show
up as usual back at the restaurant later that night.
Well, no one saw Ion that evening!
Everyone was getting really worried for his safety. Did he have a delayed
reaction to the anaesthetic; did he get caught up in some bushes by the collar & cone; did another animal get him because
he couldn't defend himself while wearing the collar & cone? I couldn't stop
worrying about him but I kept telling everyone that he was all right and just sleeping off the anaesthetic (as it can take
several days for it to rid itself from an animal's body). I think I was trying
to convince myself as well as the others that he was all right.
Finally, after about 30 hours, the restaurant owner called to say Ion
was back! We immediately rushed over and there he was, still wearing the collar
& cone, and acting as if nothing had ever happened! I decided to monitor
him without the cone on to see if he minded the stitches and, because he didn't try to scratch them, I removed it so he could
protect himself better when in his own element. Stitching the eye closed probably
didn't really make a difference to him because he'd already been without it for a long time.
Remember, in the mornings I carried Ion back to his favourite spot
all the while thinking that by doing this it would not encourage him to come to our hotel on his own; well, was I wrong! On the fourth evening I looked out over our balcony and what do I see; it's Ion walking
up the steps to our hotel! It broke my heart to see him do this because he had
now come to know us and we would have to leave him in a few days. Anyway I brought
him in and he again slept on our bed, had another hearty meal of sardines and thoroughly enjoyed a gentle brushing. He was beginning to look like a well-kept cat with regular meals and grooming! (I know some readers may frown upon us taking him in but you do what you think is right at the time.)
Back home in Canada, a day doesn't go by that I don't think about him
and there have been a few tears shed as well. I keep seeing his sad face looking
for us from the hotel steps.
After some serious thinking we decided that, on our return to Paros
in early October to attend a Greek wedding, he would come back to Canada with us. Sadly
that was not to happen. We searched for him for several days, checking out all
the local spots that were obvious food sources, the back laneways and we even walked further inland to the little villages
in case he had wandered away from the beach area. He apparently wandered off
about 2 weeks after we left and, as no one has seen him or found his body, we can only assume that after receiving a little
love and care from us, even if it was only for a brief period, he was comfortable going off to peacefully pass away. We can only hope that he knows how much we miss him and that he will be in our hearts
Dianne & George Aldan