Eva Green found love at Navarino Pet Community. To be more precise, she found Agapi (“love” in Greek), an adorable but traumatized female border collie who would not have survived without the care provided by the volunteers of this exemplary pet shelter and adoption center. Navarino Pet Community promotes the love of animals to the local community and is a role model for organizations across Greece.
The story of Agapi is touching and hopeful, like so many that have unfolded since Navarino Pet Community was launched in 2016. When a woman found Agapi three years ago in a cemetery in the village of Gargaliani, around 14km from Costa Navarino, the dog had just given birth to seven puppies. For some time, the woman fed the dog and her offspring, although Agapi was suspicious and aggressive towards anyone who came near her – a potential indicator of the abuse she had suffered. It was clear that, without intervention, her story would not end well. Navarino Pet Community took action.
Here, dogs are not simply rounded up: they’re examined by veterinarians, vaccinated, and even operated on, should they require it. Healthy adult dogs are sterilized and all are micro-chipped, as per government regulations. They’re given names and the opportunity to mix with people and other dogs; in time, they’re trained, and learn about play and about giving and receiving affection.
For Agapi, who went through this whole process, it took her time to calm down, to develop her confidence, to learn how to exit her cage and to be socialized. Today, she is a quiet, adorable dog waiting for a forever home, as is Bella, one of her daughters. Agapi’s other six puppies have already been adopted. “It was wonderful to see how well looked after all these dogs were,” Green said, relating her experience at Pet Community, the best ending to a weekend she spent at Costa Navarino with her own two four-legged friends, Winston and his sister Nora, two intelligent and cute little schnauzers. “It was so touching how much they were cared for. The dogs were so adorable and friendly! Nothing wild about them. They all have their own personality. I wanted to take them ALL home!” During her visit to the shelter, she met many of the 20 dogs hosted there, and was particularly taken by Brownie, Rebel and Aldo, who need nothing more than a new family and a warm home.
“These dogs have been with us for 6 years,” says Anastasia Pavlopoulou, the supervisor of the shelter, who showed the 42-year-old French star around (she also gave her numerous doggie biscuits to entice the ones that are shy with strangers). “They don’t have behavior problems; it’s their size that’s an issue. These dogs weigh 30-40kg, and it’s been hard to find them a home, but looks can be deceiving. Everything has to do with the innate energy of each animal, not with its size. Aldo, for instance, is happy with two 30-minute walks a day; afterwards, he rests and sleeps. When the other dogs start barking, he remains calm. He’s not demanding in any way, and could even easily fit into the household of an older couple.” “Ι am the Queen of the Dogs!” exclaimed the actress at some point, as she was being photographed with several happy snouts and wagging tails in motion around her feet.
Whether famous or not, pet owners or not, all visitors of Pet Community experience similar feelings; they’re moved by the stories of the cruelty suffered by these creatures at the hands of humans, they admire the selfless dedication of the volunteers and, last but not least, they feel an inexplicable euphoria in the presence of the cheerful, playful dogs, who seem to strive to win over potential owners. In Green’s case, the actress was particularly interested in how the staff chooses which dogs to take in. “Priority is given to puppies, or to older animals who are sick or hurt and who essentially would not survive without assistance,” Pavlopoulou explained. Meanwhile, stray animals in the wider area are well-fed and in relatively good condition. “Although the Navarino Pet Community can only house a limited number of animals at a time, we have other locations where strays are fed, and volunteers in the area keep an eye out, informing us if they locate an animal in bad condition; they don’t just leave them to their fate. With time, more and more people are becoming sensitized to the issue and proactive in their efforts to help us,” she continued.
Eva Green is perhaps the best suited of all high-profile visitors to appreciate the efforts undertaken at Navarino Pet Community, as caring for animals is something she holds very dear, expressing her views in public interviews and on social media, inspiring millions of people. She is on record as having noted that: “If there is one positive thing about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that so many people have adopted dogs and are experiencing the unconditional love and devotion that our furry friends bring us every day.” She travels as often as possible with her dogs; in the past with Griffin, her beloved border terrier, and today with Winston and Nora. But, as she noted, it’s not at all easy to do so. “It’s only getting worse with airlines, restaurants, hotels, and public transport. Makes me sad.” Just recently she had to spend several months apart from Winston, because the only dogs that are allowed to travel on the Eurostar from Paris to London are guide dogs for the blind.
Eva often posts about her animals, is photographed with them by famous photographers for international magazines such as Vogue, and enjoys walking them on verdant Primrose Hill, in London. Like every good dog mom, she spoils her darlings to bits, as evident in her statement from a past interview: “I cook for [them] more often than I cook for myself: venison, which is better than chicken, lots of vegetables, flaxseed oil, a bit of fish, beetroot … And then for me, I can’t be bothered, I’ll just have pasta. It’s ridiculous!”
To date, approximately 250 animals have found homes in Greece and other countries around the world, thanks to Navarino Pet Community. Their foster parents become an extended family of the shelter, keeping in touch and updating the organization on their dogs’ wellbeing. “Every adoption is a vindication of the effort we put forth, motivated by love for the animals, because we owe it to them,” says Pavlopoulou. “The shelter is definitely better than the streets, but even the most perfect shelter in the world cannot compare to living in a house with a family.”
“Every human should have pets,” Eva Green argues. “Our pets are great teachers. The greatest gift that dogs give us is unconditional love. They give their love without expecting anything in return, and with no restrictions or limitations. Dogs and other animals are so healing, to an increasing amount of people, especially while loneliness is on the rise worldwide. Did you know that loneliness kills us faster than smoking cigarettes or a poor diet…? Anxiety is debilitating, stress is poisonous. We need our pets, our little and big ones alike.”
[The original version of this article appeared on Costa Navarino Stories magazine, 2023 edition]