By Lucy Notarantonio
A mum-of-two has spent over £40K of her life savings to save stray dogs abroad – and has even set up her own rescue centre.
Dimitra Andreou, 37, quit her job and moved to Larnaca, Cyprus, to set up a new life with her family but never thought she would end up with fostering dozens of four-legged friends from the streets.
Yet the former assistant bank manager couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the dogs to ‘die of starvation’ so after years of fostering strays she opened her own rescue shelter last year.
The shelter relies on donations but ‘there is never enough’ meaning Dimitra has had to fork out £40,000 of her life savings to cover the costs of the shelter, veterinary bills and food for the dogs.
Dimitra’s shelter has found 52 dogs a forever home since January this year – some of which have been flown to Europe and UK to meet their new owners.
Dimitra, from Leicester, says: “When I first moved to Cyprus, I felt extremely upset every time I walked past a stray dog who didn’t even have a drop of water.
“Unfortunately, the locals would rather see them die which is why I could never walk away.
“I have seen dogs living in horrendous conditions, cooped up in a small cages covered with excrement and dirty water.
“Hunters will use their dogs until they can’t physically work anymore and then dump them in appalling conditions or even worse shoot them.
“It doesn’t get any easier seeing dogs who are skin and bone every day and scared of everything and anything.
“We have dogs who are covered in ticks and fleas but it more upsetting to see the ones who are mentally suffering.
“We called one dog the ‘broken boy’ as he was too frightened to look up for three days, I couldn’t even imagine what had happened to him.
“As much as it breaks you to see them like this, it is so rewarding when they find their trust in us and see that we are here to help.
“Before I moved to Cyprus, I worked full time and was the type of woman who would get my nails done and wear make-up but now half the time I am covered in dog poo.
“I never thought I would invest all my time and money into looking after and rehoming dogs, but it is the best thing I ever did.”
Dimitra originally intended on opening a dog hotel for an extra income with some kennels for strays too.
But once it was built, the hotel was opened as ‘Doggie warriors rescue sanctuary’ as she opened the doors to strays – it solely relies on donations to cover the costs.
Her husband Paul Kofteros, 42, who is an estate agent puts ‘everything he earns’ into the shelter to ensure the dogs are nursed back to good health and rehomed.
She adds: “I quit my job at Alliance bank and moved to Larnaca to be with my husband and help him with his admin but I have stopped doing this to give the shelter my all.
“During my walks to the school, I would see mistreated and neglected dogs and I had to do something about it.
“I used to bring them to a local rescue shelter for check-ups and had fostered approximately 30 dogs before I decided to open up my own shelter.
“My husband was sick to death of me bringing them back so when I proposed my initial idea of setting up a doggy hotel with some kennels for the strays, he was very supportive.
“I never opened the hotel as I couldn’t turn my back on the strays, the locals don’t care about them but I do.
“I love helping them and seeing them thrive with a little love and the medical attention they need.
“We have kind donations, but it is never enough – it costs £350 per week for food alone and vet bills can be anything between £100 to £400 a time.
“Everything my husband earns goes into looking after the dogs and my sons Andrea, 6 and Sotiris, 5, volunteer during their spare time.
“I wouldn’t be able to do this without my volunteers who help in Cyprus and the voluntary workers in the UK who carry out home checks and help promote my social media page.”
You can donate to the shelter via their Facebook page: Doggie Warriors Rescue Sanctuary