Tag: Greece

The loving rescue: so far, so good!

Staying with the beautiful story of a stray dog rescued from a beach in Greece to home in the United Kingdom

The footnote will explain why there is a pause in the story.

The fourth part of the story is a republication, with permission, of this.


Day Four: Saturday 24th June

by Charlotte Hargreaves

Day Four…I’m calling it this when in reality, it’s actually Day Seven. We needed a few days to adjust back into life in the UK, recover from the early morning flight followed by subsequent early get-ups (tomorrow will be my first full day of doing absolutely nothing and I CANNOT wait) and also, to spread the news of Luna throughout both of our families. Writing this one feels different, it’s the first blog about Luna…but without Luna.

Although we know she is having the time of her life right now; regular walks, a paddling pool to splash in, being pampered and pedicured, spending time with an abundance of four-legged friends and overrun with all kinds of toys, we can’t help but miss her, a dog we have known for one week. It’s funny how quickly you can fall in love.

We also can’t help but feeling like a pair of anxious parents who have sent their only child off to their first day of school. This little lady was now whole-heartedly ours, our responsibility, our family member, our precious girl. I found myself texting Olga in the same way I might a teacher, ‘Is she settling in? Has she made friends? Has she eaten all of her dinner? It’s ridiculous, and yet we can’t help but laugh at ourselves. The reality is she’s most likely sunbathing, with a full belly and waggy tail, and harbouring no bother in the world for our wellbeing, thoughts such as ‘Did they get home okay? Did the plane take off on time? Are they well rested?’, never occurring or simply overtaken by ‘When’s dinner?’ Olga did however tend to the needs of the soppy Brits, and on Thursday, we received a lovely message to say that she had settled in well. Yay! This was followed by an email from Ally on Friday with the below picture, stating ‘this was Luna minutes after you left’.

Confirmed, she is now a carefree, lady of luxury. Ally also added that she would try to send some more pictures today so fingers crossed we will receive some (which I will post the second they come through).

We also learned that her veterinary appointment had been postponed after an emergency came up at the Vets and has been rescheduled to Monday. In a way, this could be seen as a blessing in disguise because it gives her a few more days to really get comfortable before they start with the prodding and poking, although based on her unconditional love of people, I imagine she’ll be the vet’s best friend in no time.

So, now that we’ve covered the latest from across the waters, what’s been happening at home? Well, my mum has already begun to accumulate items for ‘Luna’s Bag’ including pink poo bags, treats and toys, and the general feeling across both sides of our families is one of excitement. On Sunday, I posted the blog to Facebook and we were overwhelmed with such lovely messages of support. It seems that she is going to have bred a fully-fledged fan club by the time she arrives. Through the blog, we have also begun to make a whole bunch of new friends who are keen to follow Luna’s story. Our first new pals include, Tails Around the Ranch (who gave our blog its first ever like – thanks guys!) and also Paul Handover, of Learning from Dogs, whom we have received several emails of encouragement, advice and support from, along with his lovely wife Jean. We highly recommend you check both of their blogs out at https://tailsaroundtheranch.blog and https://learningfromdogs.com

Finally, I’d like to end on a high by saying that we are now officially one day past the ‘under three weeks to go’ marker until Luni arrives (Luni – a nickname we’ve already coined for her). My part-time job covers Saturdays and Sundays and I find myself looking forward to my shifts even more so now, in that each weekend, each shift signifies another passing of a marker, another week which has come and gone, and brings us that little closer to our very exciting delivery.




This is part of an email sent to me by Charlotte on June 26th.

All is okay – we had some slightly bad news today. Luna’s vaccinations, micropchipping and blood tests all went well however she could not be neutered due to her being in season. As a result we are left with two options-

1. She stays in Greece for another 6-8 weeks until she can be neutered.
2. She comes to the UK on the same date however we would need to arrange different travel to the ferry as she won’t be able to go in the van with the other dogs.

It’s been a tough decision, and disappointing for us both, but you cannot control nature and we must do what is right for her.

With that in mind, we are 90% sure that we are going to ask Olga to hold her in Greece for the treatment to be carried out there as planned. For several reasons,

  1. She can recover under Olga’s 24/7 supervision and then come to the UK and start a fresh, rather than one of her first experiences over here being a more negative one.
  2. We won’t have to make alternative arrangements for transport which may prove complicated and costly.
  3. She is already settled with Olga and so it involves less upset for her, as we want to make her transition as smooth as possible.
  4. Also, the cost of neutering in the UK is much higher, and therefore even with paying for the extra boarding, it will most likely work out more cost effective. Although money is no concern in regards to her, we must also remember that we are saving for a house for the three us.

So potentially, we are looking at a longer wait, although good things come to those who are patient! We did think things were running far too smoothly so there was bound to be a bump in the road. Nevertheless, she is safe, healthy and happy and we could not ask for more.

Many thanks

P.S. If there are others who like Jean thought the 6-8 weeks seemed like a long time, a relevant article over on the Australian VetWest website included the following: [my italics]

How soon after an oestrous cycle can a bitch be desexed?

When an animal is in season, there is an increased blood supply to both the uterus and the ovaries. Dogs can be desexed whilst they are in season, but generally we try to do the surgery 8 weeks after the start of their last oestrous cycle.

Rest assured that I will share the rest of Luna’s story with you just as soon as it is published over on Loving Luna.

The loving rescue continues with Part Three.

The continuing beautiful story of a stray dog rescued from a beach in Greece to home in the United Kingdom

This third part is kindly republished from here.


Day Three: Wednesday 20th June

by Charlotte Hargreaves

Of Luna, I am quickly learning one thing – she is full of surprises. She walked on the lead like it came naturally and spent the night, confined within four walls, sleeping blissfully. At the same time, I am surprising myself. My new-dog-mum instincts are becoming more refined. During the night, I couldn’t help but keep peering over the sheets to make sure she was content and in the morning, I awoke literally seconds before she did, as if we were already in sync with one another.

At 6:10am, minutes after we had woken, I could tell that she was eager to stretch her legs and so we ventured out together on an early walk. This allowed Oliver some well-deserved rest for he had so patiently waited up throughout most of the night while she drifted into a deep sleep. We managed to trek through the complex, up to the mountain and back without seeing a single soul. The sky was awash with an orange hue and we walked under it in silence, perfectly peaceful

At approximately 7:00am, us three amigos hit the road to Ouranoupolis on foot. We figured that getting Luna away from the hotel was a smart move and a refreshing one at that, it felt good not to be watching over our shoulders. We were just a couple of tourists and their pet. Yes I said it, ‘pet’ (this still doesn’t feel real).

Once in Ouranoupolis, I waited on the beach with Luna while Oliver arranged the rental car and boy did she have a good time. She splashed in the ocean, rolled in the sand and played, or more accurately, flirted with a new canine friend and it was so heart-warming to see. She also made time for a little cuddle on the towel I had laid down for us. It’s the little things that get you.

Oliver returned with a Ford Focus and things had almost gone off without a hitch…until the rental car lady spotted the dog. After some pleading, we convinced her to take an extra 20€ and agreed to keep Luna in the passenger footwell on a towel…which we didn’t…but needs must! She is far too big a pooch to spend two and a half hours between my feet. This was the first leg of Luna’s big journey and we were not going to be defeated at the first hurdle.

After some coaxing into the back seat, Luna soon settled down for the journey and was content to watch the world rushing by past the window. I wondered if her mind could associate the inside of the car with the outside of which she so regularly avoided. Besides the odd speed bump and a few three-point turns which knocked her balance to and fro, the journey went better than we ever could have hoped. I would go as far to say she enjoyed it.

When we arrived at the meeting point, Olga was waiting. She guided us to the Better Dogs Hotel and my first thought was, ‘she’s going to love it here’. The complex has large pens, with thick grass and paddling pools, and the kennels were plentiful. We released Luna into one of the pens, and no surprise, she headed straight for the paddling pool. This dog is most definitely a water baby.

Meanwhile, Olga invited us to her office where we met Ally and Savvas.  We had refreshments and spoke for a couple of hours about the incredible work that Olga and the team do. Currently, she has 42 animals boarding with her but during the summer months, she told us it could rise to as many as 60. I will be publishing another blog which will include more information as to the incredible  work that Olga and her team do because I cannot simply express in so little words the passion, care and dedication which goes into everything they do.

Olga estimated that Luna was aged between 1-2 years. This surprised us for although she played (and in play, occasionally nipped) like a puppy, she had a few grey hairs within her coat. Olga told us this was most likely her natural colouring and that once she had been properly bathed, they would most likely come up more white.

Olga then brought Luna into the office and she was as happy and lively as ever, exploring the office, playing with the toys, assessing the people. She already looked at home.

She weighed in at 18kg and Olga explained to us that she did not look skinny which reinforced the theory that she is well fed by tourists. This will be interesting to compare with her weight when she leaves as I’m sure she will fatten up some from the genuine dog food (and not hot dogs or mini market ham).

Finally, she collapsed in a ball by the front door, probably exhausted from her big adventure. Then came the hardest part of this whole experience… saying goodbye. We approached her and she rolled straight onto her back, tail wagging, big brown eyes staring up. I told her, ‘be good’, and that was enough to set me off. Soppy Brit.

As we drove away, with promises to keep in touch with Olga for regular updates, I felt happy. I knew in my heart that she would be so loved by Olga and the team, that she was the safest she had probably ever been and hopefully, the happiest. She seemed so at ease, adapting so easily as she has already shown, to new people and new places. I knew we had made the right decision. It was going to be a long wait until July 14th and lots of worries raced round my mind….What if she doesn’t recognise us? What if she’s happier with Olga? What if something goes wrong with the transport? But those worries could wait another day, for now, she is safe and sound, and already so loved by so many. 


Speaking of waiting for another day, I am afraid that all of you lovely people will have to wait another day in order to read Day Four!

Part Two of a Loving Rescue

A stray dog rescue story, from a beach in Greece to home in the United Kingdom.

Part One was yesterday.

Part Two is kindly republished from here.


Day Two: Tuesday 19th June 2018

by Charlotte Hargreaves

I awoke at 6:15am and immediately checked Luna’s spot beneath the balcony but of course she had already gone. She was undoubtedly an early riser, a being who rose and set with the sun. I wondered what her life must be like, a nomad who roams freely, a life so alien to that which we know. 

The plan for the day began with a trip into Ouranoupolis for supplies for the journey ahead. After a LOT of being re-directed from mini market to mini market like some deluded scavenger hunt, we finally managed to acquire a small brown leather collar, a variety of meats and a small bowl for water and lead.

On route back to the apartment, I also managed to sneak a purse full of some of the restaurant’s hotdogs which I know she likes.

Before we began to climb Mount Everest aka the path to our apartment (although we can’t complain, the views of the bay were spectacular), we decided it was worthwhile to check in with the barman at the beach who was familiar with our hunt for Luna. Unfortunately, we were disappointed to learn that she had not shown up down there all day. This made me anxious. We thought we had figured out a rough idea of her routine; beach/main road/village in the daytime, retreat to the hotel and mountains when it gets dark so this seemed out of character.

After another call with Olga, who by this point is saved in my contacts with a dog emoji besides her name, we had agreed to bring Luna to Thessaloniki on Thursday in an animal-friendly taxi. Luckily, Better Dogs is situated by the airport and so we could drop Luna and head straight for the flight. With this potential journey only days away, we needed to be sure we could track and locate her when needed and so this irregularity in her routine had me concerned. But, after all, a stray is called a stray for good reason, they are wanderers, governed by their individual desires. Although, I must admit that I secretly hoped that as we begun the ascent to our apartment, we might find her relaxing in the pool on a lilo…no luck.

Later that evening, things went from bad to worse as we learnt that the animal-friendly taxi had cancelled on us after having second-thoughts about transporting a stray without a travel box. This left us with two options…

  1. Olga sends transport to collect Luna.
  2. We hire a car and drive to Thessaloniki ourselves

Option 2 won, primarily because we wanted to meet Olga personally, visit the kennels for ourselves and rather selfishly, prolong our time with her.

Hiring the car would need to happen on Wednesday which meant we would need Luna in the apartment THIS evening to ensure a smooth, early and most importantly, undetected departure in the morning. We needed to find her and fast!

After roughly half an hour of searching across the complex, from the beach to the hills, lead and hotdog in hand, we finally spotted our Luna trotting along down the main road behind some fellow tourists. She crossed the road confidently and once on the same side, we called out to her. Instantly she recognised us and came bounding over, back in the dirt, legs in the air and that tongue lolling out of the mouth, such a comedic pose.

Getting the lead on was relatively easy, her nose fixated on her favourite treat – hotdogs. Once on, she had a momentary panic but was soon trotting along beside us, the perfect image of domestication…if strays are anything, it’s adaptable!

Then, stealth mode was activated. The three of us sticking to the shadows as we ventured across the complex towards our room. Other than a few passers by, we got to the room pretty much unnoticed and with some encouragement (and more hotdogs), she was safely inside.

After a few minutes of stationary uncertainty, her curiosity got the better of her and she began her  exploration.

Long black legs tip-toeing into the shower, a twitching nose tracing every surface, wide eyed and reassuringly, waggy-tailed. Her only reservation was the other dog in the room who got a little growl…aka her own reflection in the mirror.

Soon enough, she was settled on her makeshift bed of towels, cushions and with her collar, water bowl and hotdog beside her, she was beginning to look the part and our family felt complete.


Part Three of this wonderful story of love and caring for a stray dog appears tomorrow.

A story of a loving rescue

A stray dog rescue story, from a beach in Greece to home in the United Kingdom.

So many times this world of blogging creates special connections.

Just a few days ago there was an email, automatically generated by WordPress, to inform me that there had been a new subscriber, or follower, of Learning from Dogs. As I always do if that new subscriber has, in turn, their own blog-site, I go across to their place and leave a ‘thank you’ note.

In this recent case the blog-site that I went to was one under the title of Loving Luna. If you go to that home page you will read this:

Hey! My name is Charlotte Hargreaves.

On 11th June 2018, my partner Oliver and I arrived in Halkidiki, Greece for our third holiday together.

With Oliver recently starting a new job as a Sales Executive and myself finishing University two weeks prior, we were more than ready for the ten day break!

The trip started out like any other – sand, sea, sun, tequila. However on Monday 18th June, just three days before we were scheduled to depart back home, we came across a stray who was to steal our hearts and set us off on a wild adventure to #bringLunahome.

This is her story.

Charlotte has very kindly given me permission to republish her four posts that go into the details of getting Luna back to England.

Here is her first one.


Day One: Monday 18th June 2018

We first spotted Luna on the private beach of our hotel. Dehydrated and drained, she appeared out of nowhere and desperately tried to wriggle her body underneath the occupied sun lounger in front of us, for shade from the blistering mid-day sun. Her eyes rolled in the back of her head, half-closed and she panted heavily, her tongue lolling clumsily to one side. Oliver fetched some water and she lapped it quickly from the cup. In return, she was incredibly affectionate and offered strokes and belly rubs in between sips, her loving nature at the forefront of her character.

After a short while, she ventured to a vacant sun lounger and fell asleep underneath its accompanying parasol. When the sun lounger behind this one also became vacant, we quickly moved to observe her more closely. For a stray dog, we were taken aback by how gentle and friendly she was. She took slices of ham which we had salvaged from the all inclusive sandwiches so delicately and always with that wagging tail. Some she ate, some she buried, demonstrating that deeply engrained survival instinct. It broke our hearts. We knew we had fallen in love and never wanted her to have to plan for her next meal again.

She remained on the beach for the most part of the day before retreating up the mountain and out of sight. After speaking to some of the locals, two things became clear. Firstly, we learned that she had a wide roaming ground, from the beach to the top of the mountains, from Ouranoupolis town right down to the opposite end of the main road. In total, she most likely covered a distance of 5-10km per day, sparking a fear in us that with only three days left in Halkidiki, we might never see her again. Secondly, and most notably, we learnt that Luna was loved. Rather than scavenging dustbins, her main tactic for acquiring food seemed to be earning it from tourists through her approachability. As a result, the locals said many people across the Island knew Luna and recognised her as she her passed through.

Back home in the United Kingdom, my family has always owned and loved dogs.  At the moment, we have a Schipperke called Koko and three Lhasa Apso’s, Jussy, Lucy and Phoebe, who live with my Nan across the road. We also regularly dog-sit for two cheeky Staffie’s called Boss and Jet.

When I retold Luna’s tale to them, they were incredibly supportive and this motivated me to reach out to several charities including PAWS (Pelion Animal Welfare Society). PAWS contacted us with wonderful news – there was a lady called Olga in Thessaloniki who would take Luna in her boarding kennels, Better Dogs. Olga could assist with arranging the necessary veterinary procedures for travel including micro-chipping, anti-rabies injection, de-worming and acquiring a pet passport. After that, PAWS informed us, they had a place for Luna on their next ferry trip to the UK, scheduled to arrive in Maidstone, Kent on Saturday 14th July.                                                        Suddenly, things became very real.
Could we actually be bringing this little dog home? Could we pull this all together just three days before our departure?

We set to work like two mad men, the bed covered with scribbled notes, plans of actions, contact numbers and (premature, I know) …suggestions for names. We were attached, well and truly. But pivotally, it had become doable. This crazy idea now had structure, logisitics, possibility! We knew there would be costs, extensive planning required and still a hell of a lot of uncertainty but PAWS had made this dream transition into a reality. It was then we decided… she was coming home.

That night, England was playing their first World Cup match and the hotel bar was filled to brim. I sat amongst the crowd with my phone in hand, anxiously awaiting my first call with Olga. At 9:24pm, it rang. One of the first things she said to me was, ‘Charlotte, I am going to help you and your dog’ and the relief that we were not alone in this came flooding in. People wanted to help. My family were behind us, PAWS were behind us and now Olga was behind us. I wondered if this pup had any idea of the support she was rallying and the love she was already spreading.

It was beginning to grow dark and conscious that we hadn’t seen Luna in a few hours, our hearts began to ache for her. By this point, news had spread through the hotel of our quest and opinions of us were divided between those idiotic, soppy Brits or genuinely, good-hearted people. I like to think the latter. Suddenly, in the midst of the game and, ironically, whilst I was continuing to jot down ideas for names, a lady hurried through the crowd towards us, gesturing and calling ‘She’s here! She’s in the hotel!’. Oliver and I darted from our seats but unfortunately when we came to the place where she had been spotted, she had vanished. Her coat acting as a perfect camouflage against the night. Disheartened, and with a feeling that she was somehow mocking us, we returned to the game.

The employees of the hotel had told us that she was often seen at the very top of the complex, close to the employee housing and so I felt more hopeful when the whistle blew and we headed up the hill, desperate to catch another glimpse of her. By some stroke of luck, we turned the corner and saw a young couple petting a small, black silhouette. We dashed over, probably giving them a fright as we fell about the floor, stroking her and telling her how beautiful she was and how we’d missed her. To avoid coming off as completely crazy, we explained the story to the couple who seemed amazed and it began to sink in that what we were doing was something very out of the ordinary but something very special. All the while, she lay on her back in the undergrowth, letting Oliver rub her belly, play with her ears, and scratch her nose, content to be part of the action-filled plot.

We attempted to lure her to our apartment with leftover takeaway, wanting her to be comfortable and familiar with the surroundings. If we were to transport her to Olga’s, she would need to spend the night in the apartment for we couldn’t risk not being able to track her on the day of the trip. She was as playful as ever but metres from the front door, her skittishness took a hold of her and uncertain, she trotted away into the darkness. An old adage rang in my head that you should never chase a stray and so we retreated to our apartment balcony and talked about how we were going to make it work, how badly we wanted her and to psychologically assess ourselves…just to confirm that we were not actually just a pair of idiotic, soppy Brits.

An hour or so passed when all of a sudden, as if she had overheard, a little black shadow appeared below our balcony with its signature head tilt and inquisitive ears. Like two rabbits caught in the headlights, we were dared not breathe, partly to avoid scaring her off and also to discourage unwanted attention. ‘Where’ve you been girl?’, we began to call to her in hushed tones. Her tail began to wag continuously until pitifully, she began to cry, unable to work out how she could reach us. Like a bullet, Oliver was out the door, round to the front and straight into her affections. A few minutes later, she climbed the mounted verge directly underneath our balcony, out of sight and laid down for the night. We wished her goodnight and returned to the apartment. Knowing that she recognised our voices in the darkness, that she was excited to see us and that she felt safe enough to sleep directly below us filled our hearts with hope and we felt positive about what the next day would bring.

On a side note, we would like to thank everyone who may appear in this article unnamed. Whether you alerted us to her whereabouts or told us we weren’t crazy….we three are so grateful for your time, support and belief in us.

*I will be writing a separate blog on both Better Dogs and PAWS and the incredible work they do. For more information in the meantime you can visit their websites below:




The second episode will be republished tomorrow!


I can’t resist this essay from George Monbiot.

As regular followers of Learning from Dogs will know, I frequently republish essays written by George Monbiot. I do so because there is only so much one can write about dogs, Mr. Monbiot is a great writer, and the gentleman has generously given me blanket permission to republish his essays! 😉

Plus, while many of my posts are directly about dogs, the underlying theme of this blog is to use the qualities of dogs as emblems, or metaphors, for how mankind has to behave if we are to have any chance of survival into the longterm. Or in the words of my essay on Dogs and integrity:

Because of this closeness between dogs and man, we (as in man!) have the ability to observe the way they live.  Now I’m sure that scientists would cringe with the idea that the way that a dog lives his life sets an example for us humans, well cringe in the scientific sense.  But man seems to be at one of those defining stages in mankind’s evolution where the forces bearing down on the species homo sapiens have the potential to cause very great harm.  If the example of dogs can provide a beacon of hope, an incentive to change at a deep cultural level, then the quicker we ‘get the message’, the better it will be.

All of which is my way of introducing Mr. Monbiot’s latest essay on the recent shenanigans involving Greece, in particular, and the EU, in general.


Breaking Faith

13th July 2015

The European Union is becoming ever harder for progressives to love. Is it time to get out?

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 10th July 2015

Had I been asked a couple of years ago how I would vote in the referendum on whether or not the UK should stay in the European Union, my answer would have been unequivocal.

The EU seemed to me to be a civilising force, restraining the cruel and destructive tendencies of certain member governments (including our own), setting standards that prevented them from destroying the natural world or trashing workers rights, creating a buffer between them and the corporate lobby groups that present an urgent threat to democracy.

Now I’m not so sure. Everything good about the European Union is in retreat; everything bad is on the rampage.

I accept the principle of sharing sovereignty over issues of common concern. I do not accept the idea of the rich nations combining to crush the democratic will of the poorer nations, as they are seeking to do to Greece.

I accept the principle that the European Union should represent our joint interests in creating treaties for the betterment of humankind. I do not accept that it has a right to go behind our backs and quietly negotiate a treaty with the United States – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – that transfers power from parliaments to corporations.

I accept the principle that the EU could distribute money to the poor and marginalised. I do not accept that, as essential public services are cut, €57bn a year should be sloshed into the pockets of farmers, with the biggest, richest landowners receiving the largest payments. The EU’s utter failure to stop this scandal should be a source of disillusionment even to its most enthusiastic supporters.

While these injustices, highly damaging to the reputation of the European Union among people who might otherwise be inclined to defend it, are taking place, at the same time the EU’s restraints on unaccountable power are in danger of being ripped away.

The slippage began with the disastrous abandonment last year of the Soil Framework Directive, at the behest of agricultural lobbyists and the British government. It’s the first time a directive has been derailed.

The directive would have obliged the member states to minimise soil erosion and compaction, maintain the organic matter contained in the soil, prevent landslides and prevent soil from being contaminated with toxic substances. Could any sentient person object to these aims? And can anyone who has studied the complete failure of current soil protection measures in countries like the United Kingdom, where even Farmer’s Weekly admits that “British soils are reaching crisis point” fail to see that further measures are required?

The National Farmers Union, who appear to regard it as their mission to vandalise the fabric of the nation, took credit for the decision.

Now the same industries are trying to sink the directives protecting the natural world. In some European countries, the nature directives are just about all that prevent the eradication of the wildlife that belongs to everyone and no one. Thanks to the capture and cowardice of the European Commission, there is now a real danger that the industrial lobbyists who want to destroy our common heritage will get their way.

The European Union’s two nature directives – the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive – are often all that stand between our wildlife and the industries that would destroy them.

Look, for example, at what’s happening to our harbour porpoises. These beautiful creatures, that enhance the lives of everyone who has seen them leaping and playing the sea, are being caught and killed in fishing nets, starved to death by overfishing, mashed up by propellers and driven out of their feeding grounds by a cacophony of underwater noise from boats.

The only way in which they can be protected is through creating areas in which these activities are restricted, particularly in places such as the Hebrides, the outer Moray Firth and in parts of Cardigan Bay. But the only site the government has proposed is a tiny speck of sea off the coast of Northern Ireland.

The one defence this species has against the mailed fist of the fishing industry, which appears to be locked around the sensitive parts of the UK’s environment department, is an appeal under the Habitats Directive, of which this country is blatantly in breach.

Or look at the continued massacre of birds of prey by grouse shooting estates, which operate as black holes in which hen harriers, peregrines, eagles and other species disappear without trace: shot, trapped or poisoned by an industry that exists to serve the ultra-elite, while damaging the common heritage of humankind. There’s no point in asking nicely: representing the interests of the ultra-elite while damaging the common interests of humankind appears to be the government’s mission. So the only possible restraint is an appeal under the Birds Directive, which the UK government signed and still claims to uphold.

Badly and erratically as we protect our precious species and the places in which they live, they would be in a much worse state were it not for the restraining influence of European law.

I happen to think that there is quite a lot wrong with the Habitats Directive. Some of the places it protects, at the behest of national governments, are highly degraded ecosystems, and it locks them into their depleted state, ensuring that they can recover neither the wealth of species that might live there, nor much of the dynamism and ecological function that could otherwise have been restored.

The irrational way in which upland heather moors are protected is one example. Like the strikingly similar landscapes of low wiry vegetation that you can now see in some former rainforest areas in the tropics, these habitats have been created through repeated cycles of cutting and burning. This destruction is necessary to keep these wastelands in their current state, by preventing trees from returning.

While we decry these processes when we see them take place abroad, here we treat them as if they were essential conservation tools. It’s a form of madness which afflicts everyone from grouse moor owners to conservationist groups, and it reflects an astonishing loss of perspective on the part of those who should be protecting the natural world. The Habitats Directive is one of the legal instruments that has turned this continued destruction into a legal requirement.

But the European Commission’s proposals to “reform” the directives, are likely to make them worse, not better. The danger is that it will leave their irrational aspects intact, while stripping away the essential protections they offer to our wildlife.

No one is in any doubt that the “reform” being proposed is the kind that is usually enacted with a can of petrol and a box of matches. In November last year, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, instructed the Environment Commissioner to “overhaul” the directives and to examine the possibility of merging them. A reliable if sometimes eccentric set of protections is now at mortal risk.

A public consultation on these proposals is taking place at the moment, and it closes on July 24. I’ll repeat that because the only hope these directives possess is a huge public response calling for their defence. The consultation closes on July 24. Please send in your views. Already, 270,000 people have done so, prompted by campaigning organisations such as the RSPB. Let’s turn this into half a million.

The ostensible purpose of this proposed vandalism is to reduce the costs to business. But when the Conservative former president of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber, was asked by the European Commission to conduct a review of all European legislation, with a view to deregulating it, he discovered that the combined impact of all seven of the EU’s environmental directives (of which birds and habitats are just two) is less than 1% of the total cost to business caused by European law. In other words it is utterly insignificant.

In fact, changing these directives could be costly for businesses, as they have already adapted their practices to meet them, and they would have to start all over again if the laws are changed.

The threat to the directives arises not from a demand by business as a whole, but from pressure by two of the most destructive industries in the European Union, Big Farmer and the construction lobby. That the European Commission should have chosen to listen to them while ignoring the views of everyone else cuts to the heart of what is going wrong there.

So when the referendum comes, I will find myself in a struggle I never anticipated. I am an internationalist. I think it’s essential that issues which transcend national borders are tackled together, rather than apart. I recognise the hideous history of conflict in Europe, and the extraordinary achievement of peace that the European Union represents. I feel nothing in common with the Eurosceptics of the right, who appear to see the EU as interfering with their god-given right to exploit other people and destroy their surroundings.

My feelings towards the EU are now similar to my feelings towards the BBC: a sense that I ought to join the defence of this institution against reactionary forces, but that it has succumbed so catastrophically to those forces that there is little left to defend. If the nature directives go down, while TTIP and the fiscal waterboarding of countries like Greece proceed, it will not be obvious what continued membership has to offer us.



 Difficult to add anything of value to these powerful words from GM other than to remind everyone, both in the EU and outside (for the survey accepts non-EU resident contributions), to complete the survey highlighted by George Monbiot. The link is here.

Mid-week break.

Just ran out of time yesterday, so enjoy the following:

(Sent to me by Dan Gomez.)


The beautiful strange-eyed kitten, taken in  Lovech, Bulgaria in the summer of 2009 by Bobby Pfeiffer.


Zakynthos Island in Greece. The water is so clear, it looks like the boat is floating in the air.

This is what ocean sand looks like when it’s magnified 250 times.

California Red-Sided Garter Snake.


Zanjeer, The Golden Labrador Who Saved Thousands Of Lives.

In March 1993, a series of 12 bombs went off across Mumbai, India. The serial blasts left 257 dead and 713 injured. But in the aftermath, an unlikely hero emerged. According to Reuters, a golden labrador named Zanjeer worked with the bomb squad and saved thousands of lives by detecting “more than 3,329 kgs of the explosive RDX, 600 detonators, 249 hand grenades and 6,406 rounds of live ammunition.” He helped avert three more bombs in the days following the blasts.

The dog died of bone cancer in 2000. He was eight years old.

In the photo, a senior police officer lays a wreath of flowers on Zanjeer as he was buried with full police honors at a widely-attended ceremony.


The love of a woman for her horse!

The incredible story of one woman’s loyalty to her horse – she spent three hours holding its head above the tide after it got stuck in the mud on a beach in Australia.  His owner, Nicole Graham, who was enjoying an afternoon ride, stayed with him as rescuers struggled for three hours to pull him out. With moments to spare, the 500kg horse, named Astro, was freed with the help of a tractor and harness at Avalon Beach in Geelong, Victoria, Australia .


Hearing clearly?

Perhaps intuition is all we have to hear clearly.

John O’Donohue, in yesterday’s post, touched on the essence of today’s theme, “The greatest philosophers admit that to a large degree all knowledge comes through the senses. The senses are our bridge to the world.

Dogs, of course, demonstrate powerfully how their senses provide a ‘bridge to the world’.

This odd collection of writings (ramblings?)  that comprise Learning from Dogs is based around the ‘i’ word – Integrity.  The banner on the home page proclaims Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them. Ergo, dogs offer a powerful metaphor for the pressing need for integrity among those that ‘manage’ our societies.

Thus my senses are more tuned, than otherwise, to the conversations in the world out there that support the premise that unless we, as in modern man, radically amend our attitudes and behaviours, then the species homo sapiens is going to hell in a hand-basket!

End of preamble!

Professor Bill Mitchell is one person who recently touched my senses.  As his Blog outlines he is an interesting fellow,

(Photo taken in August 2011 in Melbourne, Australia)

Bill Mitchell is the Research Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW Australia.

He is also a professional musician and plays guitar with the Melbourne Reggae-Dub band – Pressure Drop. The band was popular around the live music scene in Melbourne in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band reformed in late 2010.

He also plays with a Newcastle swing blues band – The Blues Box. You can find music and other things on his Home Page.

Professor Mitchell’s Blog is not for the faint-hearted, it can be pretty technical at times.  Nevertheless, I have been a daily subscriber for a couple of months now.

On the 24th, Prof. Bill wrote a long article under the heading of ‘What if economists were personally liable for their advice‘.  I want to quote a little from that article.  Starting with,

Economists have a strange way of writing up briefing documents. There is an advanced capacity to dehumanise economic advice and ignore the most important economic and social problems (unemployment and poverty) in favour of promoting non-issues (like public debt ratios). It reminds me sometimes of how the Nazis who were brutal in the extreme in the execution of their ideology sat around getting portraits of themselves taken with their loving families etc. The training of economists creates an advanced state of separation from human issues and an absence of empathy.

In a sense, we all understand this, this use of language to separate us from our collective humanity.  A random Google search came up with this.  A statement by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to Parliament on the 24th regarding Europe, as in,

Mr Speaker, let me turn to yesterday’s European Council.

This European Council was about three things.

Sorting out the problems of the Eurozone.

Promoting growth in the EU.

And ensuring that as the Eurozone develops new arrangements for governance, the interests of those outside the Eurozone are protected.

This latter point touches directly on the debate in this House later today, and I will say a word on this later in my statement.

Resolving the problems in the Eurozone is the urgent and over-riding priority facing not only the Eurozone members, but the EU as a whole – and indeed the rest of the world economy.

Britain is playing a positive role proposing the three vital steps needed to deal with this crisis – the establishment of a financial firewall big enough to contain any contagion; the credible recapitalisation of European banks; and a decisive solution to the problems in Greece.

Read the last paragraph.  Wonderful words that seem to make sense to the casual listener but picking up on Prof. Bill, an utter ‘separation from human issues and an absence of empathy‘.  There is no humanity in those words from the British Prime Minister.  We all know there are hundreds of other examples from mouthpieces all across our global society.  Back to Bill Mitchell’s article,

Linkiesta say:

Greece has failed. To say this is not another report of investment banks or research centers, but directly Troika officials who have just completed their review on Hellenic public finance. Linkiesta is in possession of the entire report of the troika, composed of officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission.

I have a rule of thumb that I use when considering documents such as these. The rule is to assess how strong the concern for unemployment is. How often is unemployment mentioned? The answer is zero. The document never mentions the word or concept.

So obsessed are the Troika and their bean counters about public debt stabilisation that they have completely lost sight of one of the worst problems an economy can encounter – the failure to generate work for all.

Read those last words again, “completely lost sight of one of the worst problems an economy can encounter – the failure to generate work for all“.  One last extract from the article,

There is absolutely no historical evidence which shows that when all nations are contracting or stagnant and private spending is flat (or contracting) that cutting public spending will create growth.

So why did these economists think that a nation would grow when all components of spending were strongly indicated to fall or were being actually cut? The answer lies in acknowledging that they operate in an ideologically blinkered world and are never taken to account for their policy mistakes. They are unaccountable and do not suffer income losses when the nations they dispense advice to and impose policies on behave contrary to the “expectation” which results in millions being unemployed.

In my view, my profession should be liable for the advice it gives and economists should be held personally liable for damages if their advice causes harm to other individuals. If the economists in the IMF and elsewhere were held personally responsible then the advice would quickly change because they would be “playing” with their own fortunes and not the fortunes of an amorphous group of Greeks that they have never met.

Very powerful words that strike at the heart of the matter, that of integrity. (If you want to read it in full, then the article is here.)

Let me move on a little.  The 24th also saw a powerful essay on Yves Smith’s Blog Naked Capitalism, from Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer living in Dublin, Ireland.  Here’s a taste of what Mr. Pilkington wrote.

Every now and then a terrible thought enters my mind. It runs like this: what if the theatre of the Eurocrisis is really and truly a political power-game being cynically played by politicians from the core while the periphery burns?

Yes, of course, we can engage in polemic and say that such is the case. But in doing so we are trying to stoke emotion and generally allowing our rhetorical flourish to carry the argument. At least, that is what I thought. I had heard this rhetoric; I had engaged in it to some extent myself; but I had never really believed it. Only once or twice, in my nightmares, I had thought that, maybe, just maybe, it might have some truth.

Can you see the parallels between Prof. Mitchell and Philip Pilkington?  The latter wrote, “a political power-game being cynically played by politicians from the core while the periphery burns“, the former wrote, “If the economists in the IMF and elsewhere were held personally responsible then the advice would quickly change because they would be “playing” with their own fortunes and not the fortunes of an amorphous group of Greeks that they have never met.”

It’s clearly obvious to all those that have commented to both the Bill Mitchell and Philip Pilkington items.  That is, in my words, a complete lack of integrity, truth and a commitment to serve the people, from so many in places of influence and power.

We all sense this, hear it so clearly, a separation from human issues and an absence of empathy.

We have so much to learn, so much sense to learn, from dogs!


Footnote.  Had just completed the above when I came across a piece by Patrick Cockburn in last Sunday’s Independent newspaper, that starts thus,

World View: A sense of injustice is growing. Elite politicians and notorious wrongdoers appear immune as ordinary Greeks reel from wage and job cuts

Up close, the most striking feature of the reforms being forced on Greece by its international creditors is their destructiveness and futility. The pay cuts, tax rises, cuts and job losses agreed to by parliament in Athens last week will serve only to send the economy into a steeper tailspin, even if it extracted a much-needed €8bn in bailout money from the EU leaders. “Nothing but a lost war could be worse than this situation,” one left-wing ex-minister tells me. “What is worse, no party or political group in Greece is offering real solutions to our crisis.

Say no more!

Greece, or grease?

The agony of watching a country (and a planet) slip.

Readers will be aware that I very rarely stroll through the tangled pastures of international politics and finance.  The only reason that I do so today is on the back of a very impressive letter published in the German newspaper  Handelsblatt.  That was brought to my attention by my subscription to Mike Shedlock’s (Mish) Blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis.  You will see that I muse at two levels about where we are today.

Earlier, I had read in last Saturday’s, The Economist a leader on Greece’s debt crisis, entitled Trichet the intransigent.   That started thus,

The European Central Bank’s refusal to consider a restructuring of Greek debt could wreck the euro zone
May 12th 2011 | from the print edition

IF THE stakes were not so high, Europeans’ incompetence in the euro-zone debt crisis would be comic.

and concluded thus,

It is time for the Germans and the IMF to call the ECB’s bluff. Together they should demand, and instigate, a restructuring of Greek debt. Germany should push other European governments to cough up money to support Greek banks and, if necessary, to make whole the ECB. The fund, which knows how to restructure debt, must ensure the process is run in a competent manner. The ECB will then be faced with a choice: go along with an orderly restructuring, or trigger a much greater mess by in effect forcing Greece out of the euro zone. Surely Mr Trichet does not want that to be his legacy.

So with that as background, the letter to Georgios Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece written by Gabor Steingart is powerful and hard hitting.  Here it is in full.

Mr. Prime Minister,

Dear Mr. Papandreou,

With the greatest respect, the Western world is monitoring your efforts to master your country’s debt crisis. No other democratic country has ever managed anything like that in peacetime. You are shrinking the state apparatus; you are fighting corruption; you are teaching your fellow countrymen how to become honest tax-payers.

You are a modern hero. You are attempting the impossible. As the son of a persecuted and ostracized politician who was chased by the military junta you grew up close to danger. When the officers were looking for your father who was hiding in the attic, they threatened you by putting an unlocked pistol to your forehead and challenged you to betray your father. You denied your father’s presence until he, worried about his son’s life, left his hiding place.Later you fled with him to America where you spent your adolescence. You are alarger-than-life-character.

Preceding governments almost ruined your country. Debts amounting to 340 billion Euros are burdening the Greek state,equaling 155 times the profit of the 60 largest companies of your country and 1.5 times the amount of debts the Maastricht Treaty allows. A year ago, this newspaper, Germany’s biggest Business Daily, appealed to the public to buy Greek government bonds in order to give to the country what Greece needs just as urgently as money: confidence. We also wanted to assist in breaking through the negative spiral of growing doubt and increasing interest rates. Everyone who granted you guarantees and loans wanted it, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the heads of state and government.

But since then, the spiral has picked up in speed instead of slowing down. In May 2010 the interest rate at which your country was given money on a ten year basis was at eight per cent. Today, it is at 16 per cent. And in all probability, it will be going up further. The bitter truth to which you and all parties who wanted to help Greece have to admit is that the help doesn’t help. Your country is getting deeper and deeper into the mess. Debts are growing, the gross national product will decrease by at least three per cent in 2011. But it would have to grow by three per cent instead if you were to lower your debt to the allowedlimit until 2040. This is becoming more and more unrealistic. You can’t starve and build up your muscles at the same time.

The truth that Greece has to cut back and save has turned into an untruth. The right thing has turned into the wrong thing. You already cut pensions, lowered the salaries of civil servants by 30 per cent and raised the prices of gas by almost 50 per cent. You can’t restore the health of your country by saving. And the European Union can’t restore your country’s health by again and again injecting new loans.

Soon, the day will come when the tortured body will surrender. The Greek construction industry already shrank by 70 per cent. Sales of car dealers sank by half. A daily export volume of 50 million Euros Greece is achieving  far too little.  Soon the day will come which investors fear in their nightmares. Then the word “insolvency” will be on everyone’s lips.

But it is also the day when a new truth will be born: Don’t save but invest, they will tell you – so that the Greek economy will grow again. Do not service debt with debt, you then will be recommended, but spread out the debt service, cut it and maybe even completely suspend it for a while. It will be a day of impositions, especially for those who lendmoney to you and your people. Financial markets will grind to a halt in horror – and then they will turn to embrace the future. Because Argentina in 2001, Mexico at the beginning of the eighties and Germany after World War II taught us that there is a life after death – at least, in the case of highly indebted states.

Mr. Papandreou, so far, you attempted the impossible. Now you should do the possible. Just as you deceived the officers as a boy and denied to know where your father was hiding you now must repudiate the pride of the Greeks – in order to save your country. Come to meet the new uncomfortable truth before it knocks at your door. It’s already on its way.

Respectfully yours,

Gabor Steingart

The author is an award winning Journalist, the former White House Correspondent of “Der Spiegel” and now Handelsblatt’s  Editor-in-Chief.  His book “The war for wealth. The true story of globalization or while the flat world is broken” was  published in the US, GB, China and several other countries by McGraw Hill, New York, in 2008.

You may contact him at


Powerful, as I said.

In a sense, in a very real sense, this illustration of the end game of our love affair with debt is symptomatic of the end game in terms of mankind’s love affair with, well with mankind.  The following was written by an inmate of Oklahoma Prison in 1998.

At the root of my humanity lies a potentially insatiable self-centredness.  Given its way, it can become unquenchable. Nothing, not even the richest of imagination, will put out its fire.

This ‘what’s in it for me’ mindset is at the root of all my problems and is where my fears live.  From those fears come anger, greed, intolerance, and a host of other shortcomings.

It is no accident that all religions point to the forgetting of self, because all religions know salvation lies in self-forgetting.

As we head relentlessly towards a level of 400 parts per million (PPM) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 50 PPM above the highest safe limit determined by climate scientists, the time for mankind to move on from the debt-laden, over-leveraged, disconnected life from Planet Earth, is now.

That’s now!