For the love of Spike.
By Michael Saunders
Since arriving to live permanently in Cyprus, I have adopted many abandoned dogs and cats. More recently, I have become member of ARGOS, a relatively new animal rescue organisation. In the not too distant future, we hope to open a new animal sanctuary and shelter.
For our four legged friends in need, the journey to the safety of ARGOS is a long, difficult, and often painful one. Many are sick through neglect, others, having sustained horrific injuries, have been left to die on the roadside. Physical and mental abuse are also very common features.
For one of our more recent adoptees – a dog called Spike, the journey was mercifully broken, when he met and embraced the love and kindness of a very special group of people. Spike’s journey was most certainly charted by destiny.
The very special human beings that Spike discovered, were Royal Marines from 3 Commando Brigade. Having completed a tour of duty in Afkanistan, they briefly visited Cyprus, to spend time at the de-compression unit at Bloodhound Camp, Episkopi.
Spike was in no doubt that the commandos were to provide the key to the door of safety, and future happiness. Having been abandoned on the roads of Cyprus and wandering the bleak terrain around Episkopi, he arrived at Bloodhound camp in April.
Although shy, and obviously suffering physically and psychologically from his ordeal, he soon endeared himself to one and all. Determined to make himself at home, he stole clothes from the washing line to make himself a bed. He also became one of the team, accompanying them on guard duty, and took on the role of ‘snake watch’, alerting them when a snake was around. During the commando’s periods of recreation, Spike followed them to the nearby beach for a swim, but was always first one back to barracks.
Although in Cyprus for a short stay, during that time, the Commandos ensured he received medical attention from the military vet. Their kindness and love for him played a vital role in the healing process. The Commandos obvious concern was not just for his immediate welfare, but for his future.
Spike’s touching story was highlighted by the Cyprus Lion in their April 20th issue. An endearing photograph accompanied the story. On the day the article was published, quite by chance, I had been invited to Lambros fish and chip restaurant at Dhekalia. Whilst there, I picked up my copy of the Cyprus Mail and a copy of the Cyprus Lion Having read about Spike’s plight, and the need for him to find a home, I showed the article to Stella Stylianou, the President of ARGOS. Stella is a wonderful person, dedicated to easing the suffering of animals with a passion and determination. She wasted no time and telephoned Padre David Devenney, who was not just attached to the commando unit, but was deeply attached to Spike. David organised funds to care for Spike’s medical needs, not just for the time he was at Episkopi, but for the months ahead following their departure from Cyprus.
On Tuesday 24th April, Stella and I travelled to Episkopi to collect Spike. I had offered to foster him, until a suitable home could be found. For both of us, that day created memories that will last a lifetime. It was obvious from the time we arrived at the camp, that Spike was adored by his hosts.
The commandos were youngsters. Having spent a tour of duty in Afkanistan, they obviously met dangers none of us would have to encounter in our lives. They would have had to demonstrate immense courage in carrying out their duties. They are unquestionably, a credit not just to their unit, but to the country they so valiantly serve. How very proud their families must be of them, and we were proud and honoured to have met them.
Commandos have to be physically fit, and totally focussed to enable them to carry out their duties. Spike undoubtedly, helped them also in their healing process following their tour of duty in one of the most dangerous places in our world.
Both Stella and I would describe the visit to Episkopi as a deeply moving one. To see the love showered on Spike when he was leaving the camp confirmed beyond doubt, that Spike had found a group of remarkable and very special human beings.
Upon our departure, Stella was handed several brown envelopes. One contained a donation to ARGOS of one hundred pounds, another one hundred and twenty in lieu of one year’s pets insurance, and another one hundred for micro chipping and neutering. The commandos had not just opened their hearts to Spike, but their wallets
That very evening, David the Padre telephoned Stella to make sure Spike was all right. The following day the unit left Cyprus and headed back to the UK, and a well-earned break. Twenty minutes before flying out, David telephoned me to say thank you. The commando unit is not likely to be back in Cyprus for a year or more, but during the phone call between David and myself, a re-union was planned. No doubt Spike will be guest of honour. Stella has since received e-mails from David who had been contacted by many members of the unit, for news of Spike. A special Spike page is being set up on the web-site so that they can keep in touch with his progress, wherever they may be.
I am delighted to say Spike has settled into my village home wonderfully. When he arrived, the other dogs greeted him. Two little puppies Billy and Ben who were rescued two months ago, having been abandoned, and were living in a drainpipe, were the first to welcome him. They ran up to Spike, threw their front legs around his neck, and licked him all over his face. The other dogs Bubbles, Max and Ella, all very quickly made him a member of our special family. Although offering to foster Spike temporarily, that offer was quickly withdrawn, and I am going to officially adopt him.
Every day sees more progress in his acceptance and appreciation of a new life. He is now lead- trained now, and enjoys walks across the fields behind my home. The eyes that at first looked so sad, now sparkle like diamonds. Any visitors are welcomed by him, and everyone falls in love with this tall and graceful hunting hound. a gentle giant if ever there was one.
Spike is a lovely dog, despite his sad history; he has a wonderful temperament and character. I am proud to be his custodian.. On behalf of Spike, and ARGOS, we thank the commandos from the bottom of our hearts for their loving care. We all look forward to a re-union
Wherever their tours of duty may take them, Spike will always be with them, as will our thoughts and prayers.
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