Wed 25 Nov, Xylofagou near Ayia Napa: I set off (for what in fact proves to be) my final rescue visit at 9 in the morning, heading South toward Larnaca and then sweeping East towards Ayia Napa. It’s a bright day and the motorway driving is easy and relaxed. Mostly the land is flat with some small terraced hills formed from creamy white dessicated rocks. I pass under the billboards raised high above the motorway; advertising giant hamburgers and Kit-Kats, and Lidl and the University of Nicosia. I pass Oroklini and imagine Jeanette and her team just leaving the pound after the morning’s feeding and walking. Soon after the earth becomes red in the ploughed fields and a strip of gleaming blue sea appears to my right.
I leave the motorway at Junction 64, as directed, and, since I’m early, drive on a little further and find a juice bar at the roadside, where I have freshly-squeezed orange. I then head back to the motorway junction and wait. It’s not long before Andrea’s white Fiesta van appears and she smiles and asks me to follow her. We pass along the flat roads, past more red ploughed fields (it is known as the kokkinochoria – the red earth area), through the little village of Xylofagou and on, towards a dirt track where we pass a flock of dirty red sheep, and finally reach a large isolated house, with a large surrounding fence; horses and dogs milling around.
As we walk through the double gates dogs slip out past us, but quickly return and jump up in greeting, barking and running around. I meet Lorraine, Andrea’s sister, in the kitchen. She offers me tea and we sit and talk, while the dogs become gradually calm. There are all manner of dogs; Doberman, Hound, Poodle, Mini Pinscher, Labrador, Chihuahua; although most probably a mixture. They are friendly and want to sniff, be stroked, run, play. Andrea and Lorraine know each of their names and their individual characters.
I become fascinated by how they interact with one another; giving constant signals; of friendliness, playfulness, anxiety, wariness… they each have friends they like and those they don’t. A tiny brown dog called Dave, who Andrea explains most likely has brain damage, tries to keep others in order, particularly a new female who hasn’t been here long. He barks at her and growls and turns circles in front of her, while she tries to ignore him. The hunting dogs, with their graceful movements glide past on their long limbs with effortless elegance.
There are a number of puppies there and some of the older dogs play gently with them, in moments of remembered youthfulness. There is an older white pointer who was due to be destroyed at the Pound when Andrea and Lorraine took her – something they often do. She will remain here for the rest of her life.
“Thinking with animals can take the form of an intense yearning to transcend the confines of self and species, to understand from the inside or even to become an animal.” (p230 Daston & Mitman Thinking with Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism, 2005)
While I’m there Andrea goes to collect a small black puppy, just a couple of months old, who was found by a man (who photographed it and offered it for free on FB and then took it to the Pound). It will travel on to Lania and Tina will find him a home. We walk down to the kennels – not all the dogs like other dogs, while some dislike certain dogs and so have to be contained while the others are free. This is rotated, so no one dog is in the kennel for long. One little dog, new here, doesn’t emerge from his kennel when the door is left open and when Lorraine goes to check on him she finds that the area around his microchip is bleeding; so he will be given antibiotics.
I stay until the sun is getting low in the sky, painting the fields an even more vivid red. I then begin the hour-long drive back to Nicosia. The following day it rains – the first dull weather of my trip. Although Kyrenia and Famagusta shelter in the Northern Turkish sector of Cyprus are very positive about my visit we have been unable to arrange it for today – I therefore tell them that they will be the first visits on my next trip.