In May 2017, Lydia Ellery couldn’t wait to visit the Greek island of Zakynthos (also known as Zante). She had never been to Greece before, and she intended to take advantage of the sunny Mediterranean climate while she was there to unwind and get away from the gloomy weather in her native London.
Ellery intended to return home with a tan, but she really brought back a lot more.
While taking in the island’s quiet coves, rocky cliffsides and charming village tavernas, Ellery couldn’t help but notice the animals. Countless stray cats roamed the streets, congregating at her hotel, begging for scraps of food.
“It was pretty sad — they all looked in a bad way with wounds on their skin and covered in fleas and ticks,” Ellery told The Dodo. “It was one of those, ‘I wish I could save you all!’ situations.”
Ellery, a lifelong animal enthusiast, started using her all-inclusive meal plan to feed the scrawniest of the stray cats since she felt she couldn’t see the kittens suffer. As a visitor, she felt helpless to intervene in the cats’ suffering, but this sense of helplessness would soon change.
One day at noon, a fellow traveler approached Ellery while he was feeding the cats. The woman stated that a kitty in the trash that might need some table scraps was tucked away. The woman had been giving the kitten food, but as her vacation was drawing to an end, she was concerned that the cat wouldn’t survive for very long.
When Ellery approached the front of the building, where guests rarely went, a kitten, barely the size of her hand, emerged from the hotel’s garbage pile.
“She could only have been a few weeks old. She was living where all the rubbish bags were piled up from the hotel, which obviously was very unhygienic, dirty and also dangerous,” Ellery explained. “If the rubbish van had picked up all the trash bags with her in them, she would have been crushed.”
Ellery started returning to the trash heap twice daily, in the morning and the evening, and over the course of a week, she became aware that the flea-infested kitten was always by herself. She would consume it like it was the first time she had ever seen food, according to Ellery, who would smuggle fish out of the hotel to feed her.
We became into proper little mates because every time I came out, she would rush to my feet and sit beside me.
In an effort to not get too attached, she started calling the scrappy kitten Geoffrey after the unpopular “Game of Thrones” character.
Ellery started to worry for the welfare of her young pal as the day for her departure for the UK drew near. Despite her best attempts, she found it difficult to leave Geoffrey behind since she had become close to him.
According to what Ellery had read, a significant number of stray animals suffer to death during the winter months since there are no tourists to provide them with food. After forging such a close relationship with her, “I couldn’t handle the notion of that happening to her!” Ellery changed the kitten’s name to Aggie after one of her favorite authors, Agatha Christie, after learning that it was a girl.
Despite knowing she had to ensure Aggie’s safety before boarding an aircraft, Ellery found it to be more challenging than she had anticipated. Ellery said that there was no room for Aggie since every rescue agency on Zante was already overburdened with stray animals in need.
However, just as time was about to expire, a strange group, Zante Strays, which mostly deals with dogs, came through.
“On my last day there, a wonderful woman came and picked her up from the bins and took her to a foster home,” Ellery noted. “There she was fed well, de-flead and de-wormed and had a warm bed to call her own.”
Even though the small cat was now safe from harm, Ellery couldn’t help but worry about her often. Despite their geographical separation, she was confident that she and Aggie were meant to be. Ellery made the decision to adopt her.
Aggie eventually reached the borders of a new nation following the acquisition of a pet passport, multiple immunizations, and a two-day boat ride.
Over the course of a year, the scrawny tortoiseshell kitten has become a healthy, happy cat under Ellery’s care. She loves to cuddle with her mom and spend time in the garden chasing (but never catching) butterflies and birds. When she comes inside, she will always bring her mom a fallen feather.
“Aggie makes life infinitely more entertaining. She’s quirky, strong-minded and brings so much presence to our lives,” Ellery said. “Whilst I miss being able to eat dinner in peace, I wouldn’t change anything for the world.”
Aggie has quickly gotten used to her new life in England after leaving her past behind, even the weather.
I dread to imagine what would have occurred if Zante Strays hadn’t assisted me in saving her, Ellery said. “I’m so glad I happened upon her that day in May of last year. She is a gorgeous, special little child.”
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