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Betty Clarke - The Heart Of Cyprus Dog Rescue
Betty Clarke Betty with her two Cyprus dogs Lily (left) and Jessie (right)
Seventy one year old grandmother, Betty Clarke, has a heart of gold. From the time she was a young girl her mother impressed on her to ‘always help someone who is worse off than you’ and despite many problems of her own, that is exactly what Betty has done. While bringing up her own four children, Betty volunteered to help disadvantaged children. It was not long before she was offered a permanent job in this role. This employment led to working with Down’s syndrome children, an experience she recounts with obvious pleasure. Unfortunately Betty has an inherited heart condition and following the need for open heart surgery, she had to give up work. But no adversity deters Betty for long.
Apart from the care she has lavished on children, Betty has always loved animals. She sponsors the Dogs Trust and Ada Cole’s Horse and Donkey Sanctuary. She did a sponsored walk to raise money for Battersea Dogs’ Home and donates regularly to Horse and Foal rescue. When her own little dog died 8 years ago, she determined to take on a Battersea dog, but before doing so, she took a trip to Cyprus. Little did she know that this trip would cost her life savings over the next 8 years.
During her stay on the Greek island Betty and her husband found a crossbred collie. The dog was in a dreadful condition but all strays have to be reported to the police. While trying to determine to whom the dog belonged, they removed a leather collar only to find a metal one beneath that was eating into the dog’s flesh. The policeman explained that he would have to find the owner. “Good,” said Betty, “and when you do, let me know because I’m going to kill him.” The policeman decided there and then to sign the dog to Betty’s care.
Betty arranged for the dog’s veterinary treatment and for her to be neutered. She had decided that this dog was to be hers, so she made arrangements for Jessie, as she was to be called, to get a Pet Passport in order to travel to England. However this process takes at least 7 months and, in the meantime, she would have to make arrangements for somebody responsible to look after her.
There is an animal rescue shelter in part of a disused army barracks known as B4s in Cyprus, and although it is not ideal due to lack of funding, Betty knew that this was the best option for her newly acquired dog. The shelter is mostly run by willing volunteers but soldier’s wives also act as paid help. To house a dog there costs Betty 50 euro a week.
Shortly after rescuing Jessie, Betty found another little dog that had been dumped on a motorway and tied to a railing. Lily was to become Betty’s second dog. By now, Betty had realised that there were hundreds of dogs cruelly treated and dumped on a daily basis in Cyprus and she made it her mission to try to help them.
Betty has rescued 45 dogs altogether, finding homes for each one before flying them over to the UK. Every dog has been medically treated, neutered, passported and cared for either by B4s or a paid helper before their ultimate voyage to England. All dogs have been paid for out of Betty’s own savings. She estimates the cost to have been approximately £30,000, but, she explained, “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t eat out or play bingo and it is up to me what I do with my money.”
No one would want to argue with Betty on this or any other point related to rescue. She is a force to be reckoned with!
During the past decade Betty had to undergo open heart surgery for a second time and has had trouble with her hips, but she is unable to have surgery due to her heart condition. Despite her problems, she has continued to care for her dogs and find homes for her Cyprus protégés. Everyday Betty takes a bus to Epping Forest (she does not drive) where her dogs, Jessie and Lily enjoy their daily exercise.
Her husband, Ronnie, who has loyally supported Betty on all of her Cyprus missions, was suffering the onset of Alzeimer’s disease before they made their first trip. He continued to remain by her side until a year ago when Betty’s GP gave her the final ultimatum that Ronnie had to go into care. It was a do or die situation as far as Betty was concerned and reluctantly she agreed. Betty visits Ronnie most days. She goes in to bath him and bring his washing home. Occasionally Ronnie comes home for the day and still enjoys the response he gets from their two dogs who happily curl up on the sofa with him. Lily is a frequent visitor to the care home too and she does as much for the moral of the nursing staff as she does for the patients.
Money is running short but Betty’s Cyprus dog rescue continues. At the end of May, two poodles are being flown over to start life in their new home, two more little dogs are being adopted by two of the nurses at Ronnie’s care home and Betty is still desperately seeking homes for two more dogs.
Times are hard for Betty but she is not the type to sit around feeling sorry for herself. She talks warmly of the support she receives from her loyal friends Mary and Dave who drive her to the airport to pick up her imports from Cyprus. They have also adopted some of Betty’s most tragic cases: a poodle, Daisy, who was found at the roadside with four dead puppies, Odi whose owner committed suicide, and Delboy whose ears had been torn off after being attacked by pit bull terriers.
Critics might say that there are too many abandoned and needy dogs in this country without bringing more over here. Betty, as usual, has an answer, “Dogs in England are sponsored and supported. There is no one to care for those poor Cyprus dogs and I cannot see an animal suffering.”
This story is as much about dog rescue as it is to do with the human/dog relationship. There is no doubt that Betty’s dogs have been an enormous factor in maintaining her own physical and mental health and they have brought comfort and pleasure to her husband and the patients and staff of the care home.
Betty’s only personal extravagance is the purchase of a weekly lottery ticket. She hopes that one day she will win enough money to set up the perfect animal rescue home in Cyprus, where the dogs will be cared for in their own country by the friends and volunteers who live there and have supported Betty’s mission over the past eight years.
If you would like to home one of Betty’s Cyprus rescue dogs or would care to make a donation see below and click 'more info' highlighted in orange.
Related links: Easy Guide To Getting A Pet Passport
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