Roula was found late last year in Kalamata, hanging from a tree by a fish hook through the side of her nose. She was left there for three days, suspended in the air, struggling to defy gravity.
“What happened to Roula was senseless cruelty; one of the worst things I have ever seen,” says Andreas Donnelly, her rescuer and a member of Filozoikos Omilos Kalamatas, an animal welfare charity that looks after stray animals in the wider area.
“I’ve been involved in animal welfare in the region for 10 years and during this time, I’ve seen horrific things done to animals.”
Roula’s physical wounds have healed but the psychological scars are still there. Andreas, who formally adopted her, is trying to change that.
On Sunday 12 July, Roula and some of her stray friends crossed the finish line of the Penny Marathon, a 42km course for runners and cyclists that aims to raise awareness of animal welfare issues in Greece, Australia and beyond.
It was the first time the marathon was held in the town of Kalamata and over 90 people showed their support by hitting the streets on what was the hottest day of summer.
Ellie Prodromou, one of the founding members of the Penny Marathon, is certain that there are hundreds of Roulas out there whose stories we will never get to know.
“There are many strays who died a miserable death and who never received any justice,” Prodromou says.
Katerina Pesonis, who managed the event in Kalamata, was thrilled with the result and turnout as both communities came together to show that these are issues taken seriously.
“The people want change and we all have a role to play,” Personis says.
“Our message is respect, love, nurture, spay, don’t abandon and break the silence.”
Laws for animal abuse violations exist in Greece and carry a heavy sentence, including fines of up to 30,000 euros.
For Andreas, however, the problem lies in the apathy with which the community and the authorities treat animal abuse and, as a result, the lack of enforcement of the law.
“We tried to uncover who was responsible for doing this to Roula but knew getting justice was a lost cause,” he says.
“This is an area that we need to focus on, to convince Greeks that abuse is a crime and that abusers will be punished.”
The Penny Marathon 2015 was held in four cities this year, including Athens and Sydney, at which over 300 people participated.
Neos Kosmos has been a sponsor since the inaugural marathon in 2012. In Australia, the Penny Marathon is also sponsored by AVIS, Lea’s World Travel and KAE International Euromovers.