Running for the strays

Ellie and Pep Prodromou were so confronted by the treatment of stray dogs in the Greek capital of Athens, that they have made it their mission to help

Greek Australian sisters Ellie and Pep Prodromou are about to embark on the most famous run of all – the marathon. This event, however, is not a run to test the sisters’ athleticism, nor is it their way of commemorating the 2012 Olympics – this is something more humbling and philanthropic. This is a run to raise funds for stray dogs.
Some may think that putting one’s body through a marathon for the sake of unwanted dogs is sheer madness. Others would rather fork out their spare cash for something more meaningful – considering the current crisis in the new world order – but Ellie has a story to tell.
“The issue of stray animals hit home for me when I lived and worked in Athens,” she says. “They were on every street corner, trying to get out of the cold or find some food, waiting at the stop – sometimes for years – where their owner dumped them believing they would come back, and sometimes trailed by a litter of pups or kittens. If they managed to survive that day, then there was always tomorrow’s threat of eating poison – often planted by local councils – which is a horrific, excruciating way to die.”
Ellie mentions the quote by Gandhi about how the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Where does Greece stand on this barometer?
“Given the current climate, I am afraid that the issue will be completely removed from the radar of social consciousness. I expect the overpopulation of strays will get worse, as will the brutality,” she comments.
The sisters explain that they do occasionally come up against antagonism from people who think their energy, time and money is misspent on trying to help stray animals.
“The truth is our aims are modest; funds to cover some vet bills and buy a bit of dog food would be wonderful.”
While living in Athens, the first stray dog that Ellie reached out to was Penny. She was a small dog who had wandered into the office building and would often just hang around the grounds. One day, Penny didn’t show up. On her way home, Ellie saw Penny’s body laid out in the gutter on the road. She had been hit by a car and abandoned for the street cleaners to pick up.
“The marathon was named in her honour. It is a way to acknowledge her brief existence. It also got me thinking that every living being deserves a fair shot at life; at the very least a peaceful one. Why shouldn’t Penny’s life matter? It should and it does – to me.”
The run will start at 4:00 am on Monday 16 July. Ellie and Pep are running the classic 42 kilometre route from Marathon to Athens in Greece. While it is not a an organised run, they have inspired others to join them, including one cyclist who has to finish before 10:00 am in order to get to work.
Beyond the dogs themselves, Ellie and Pep are running as a way to acknowledge the work done by the volunteers who fill the huge void that is indifference and apathy. Ellie describes these people as “modest, hard working and inspiring, and don’t get anywhere close to the kind of acknowledgment that they should; often quite the opposite. These people see heinous things, struggle with funding and yet manage to find the strength to keep going.”
Part of the funds raised will go to Monika’s Doggie Rescue in Sydney, which saves dogs on death row in council pounds. The sisters have set up an account at www.everydayhero.com.au/penny_marathon_2012. The credit card option takes only a few minutes and it’s tax deductible.
The rest of the funds will go to the small, ad hoc shelter that Ellie and her former colleagues set up in Athens. Funds for this will be collected by Filozoiki Oikonomiki Voitheia, which is the first organised and successful online attempt to unite all Greek animal lovers so as to provide financial support to volunteers.
As a rescue dog owner myself, it baffles me why people turn to puppy farms for their pet. My dog, Gin, who I adopted over eight years ago from Monika’s Doggie Rescue, is a testament to the incredible work of such organisations. I congratulate Ellie and Pep for their huge effort in raising awareness about those special pooches that bring so much joy to our lives.
To show your support, ‘like’ the Penny Marathon 2012 on Facebook. Penny Marathon 2012 -is proudly sponsored by KAE International, expert removalists. KAE International can arrange your shipment of goods to and from Australia and Greece.