Ex-student is tackling another Greek tragedy
11 July 2012
In the midst of the human suffering from the near-collapse of the Greek economy, a former Oatridge student has dedicated herself to caring for some of the collateral victims: The pets abandoned by people who can barely manage to feed themselves and their families.
Thirty-four year old Pamela Elliot, originally from Bonnyrigg in Midlothian, has spent the last 10 months on the Aegean island of Syros after volunteering to work at a shelter for stray and mistreated dogs, a problem which has escalated to crisis proportions since thousands of people lost their jobs or saw their wages slashed.
The one-time receptionist, customer service and retail worker, meant to stay for just six months but has remained, taking more responsibility at the shelter, including the vital jobs of fundraising, recruiting more volunteers and re-homing the animals. She has managed to find five new owners here in the UK in the last year and plans to double that number next year. The work is unpaid and Pamela also does cleaning and gardening jobs to help her “Get by” financially.
“Unwanted dogs here have been abandoned, shot and poisoned for years,” she says, “but there’s no doubt that it there has been a huge increase. Often dogs are abandoned through sheer desperation and, among many people I’ve spoken to, it is often a heart-breaking decision.”
Pamela’s road to Syros began when she decided to return to full-time education as a mature student. A Higher National Certificate college course in Social Science – to increase her self-awareness - helped her realise that she had been “jumping from job to job” because she was never totally happy working directly with people. As someone who has always had pets, she also saw the potential to change her life completely by switch to a career caring for animals.
Signing up for a National Certificate course in Animal Care at Oatridge was, says Pamela, her “Epiphany”.
“It gave me an amazing boost, both personally and professionally. The support I received while studying at Oatridge helped me to realise what I was actually capable of. It was the best decision I ever made and it presented me with a fantastic opportunity and gave me the strength to follow my heart.”
It also gave her the skills to tackle minor health issues among the dogs and, in the absence of a veterinary surgeon in the area, assess when it is essential to drive across island to get professional help.
Pamela plans a return to Scotland within the next few months, accompanied by one of the dogs she has helped rescue. She hopes to make up for missing last Christmas with family and friends, but she will also use the time for “some serious fundraising, sponsorship challenges and recruiting more volunteers” for the Syros shelter. Last year she encouraged former Oatridge classmates Ashley Quinn and Morag Grant to spend seven weeks on Syros and says they were a “Fantastic help”.
She will also look for more families here, willing to adopt some of the dogs she has been caring for. In the meantime donations can be made to the shelter at: http://syrosdogrescue.chipin.com/syros-dog-rescue
Pamela will return to Syros, which she admits has cast a spell on her, but in the longer term it is her ambition to set up a shelter and kennels in Scotland to bring dogs from abroad to find them new homes and incorporating boarding facilities for small animals and a mobile service for caring for reptiles and aquatic animals, while the owners are on holiday.