The owners of a dog who was abandoned in Greece are calling on animal-lovers to support the charity which gave him a new lease of life in Belper.
Elizabeth Ryan, 43, and her husband Darren adopted Finley, an 18-month-old Kokoni breed, in October last year with help from the Wild at Heart Foundation after a chance encounter online.
Elizabeth said: “It came about by coincidence. I follow an artist on Instagram who lives on the island of Lesvos and she started posting these pictures of a dog and said it needed a new home.
“We hadn’t even been looking to get a dog, but I just instantly fell in love with his little puppy face and so we got talking and it all happened really quickly.”
Finley’s story began when he was abandoned as a puppy in a town square and became one of many homeless dogs that roam the island.
Elizabeth said: “People don’t tend to get dogs spayed over there, so there is quite a big problem with strays.
“Luckily Finley made friends with a dog at the next door studio to my Instagram contact, and the people there started looking out for him.”
It is fitting that Finley was taken in by artists, given the Kokoni’s importance as a companion in Greek culture.
The history of the breed stretches back to the country’s ancient civilisations and the dogs often appear on classical pottery.
Elizabeth said: “In olden days, they would be given to women as gifts, and I suppose that’s how it has worked out.
“The people who first took Finley in are really wonderful. They already foster a lot of dogs, so they put me in touch with Wild at Heart.
She added: “The experience has taught me that there are lots of fantastic people behind the scenes making stories like this possible.”
Wild at Heart staff vetted Elizabeth and Darren to make sure Finley would be going to a good home with responsible owners.
The charity also gave Finley medical checks and vaccinations, spayed him, and arranged a specialist courier to bring him to Belper.
Elizabeth said: “We were really lucky that a transport space was available. The whole process was done in less than a month.”
The foundation supports animal welfare projects all over the world, and particularly efforts to reduce the global population of 600 million stray dogs.
It organises and sponsors rescue projects, neutering programmes, and education initiatives in places as diverse as New York, Bosnia, Borneo, China and Puerto Rico.
Elizabeth, who grew up keeping dogs and horses in her native Australia, said: “The work they do is so valuable, there are so many dogs that really need homes both here in the UK and abroad.
“Some people spend so much money on designer dogs, and still don’t know where they’re coming from - there are all sorts of problems with breeding factories.”
She added: “For me it’s better to give a chance to one that might otherwise not be loved, and give money to charities which will support others.”
The couple relocated to Belper from London last year, and Finley has helped to complete their dream.
Elizabeth said: “One of the reasons we moved here was for the walking trails, and he just loves to be out and about.
“He was a little shy at first, but he’s brilliant now. He’s got so much energy. These dogs like to be social, and part of a family.”
Elizabeth has even started a dedicated Instagram account @finley_the_greek_dog so Finley’s old friends can follow his adventures and so Wild at Heart can see how well the move has worked out.
For more information about the charity, its projects and ways to get involved, see www.wildatheartfoundation.org.