Furever Happy Village
Table of Contents
Katja Brakenhoff comes from the Netherlands and first came to Crete in 2001 to work. Like many other tourists or expats, she was not aware of the big problem with strays on the island until then, nor the questionable attitude of a large part of the locals towards animals in general.
She returned the following year and decided to stay on Crete for the winter. She quickly became familiar with the local poisonings, animal cruelty, kicking, shooting, stone throwing and various other animal abuses.
History of the animal shelter
Then one day when Katja left her house, there was a stray lying there. She was about to leave to get her residence papers for Greece, and promised the dog that she would take care of him if he was still there when she came back.
When she returned, the frightened bundle of fur and bones with a lost soul was still waiting outside her house. Very quickly now, the dog gained weight again, became more confident and then soon ran away again. During the day she could not find him, but in the evening he always came back.
However, she soon learned that he spent his days in a local mini-market with a lady from Wales who worked there. Welsh lady and Cretan dog fell in love and mistress eventually took him home where the dog was comfortable. At that time Katja already had two other dogs and the stray, who was christened ‘Muffin’, was only comfortable in solitary confinement.
Years later, the lady moved back to Wales, where the former stray reached the proud age of 21 before crossing the Rainbow Bridge. So ‘Muffin’ became her first rescue dog in Crete.
She went on to take in many more dogs. Many were placed in good homes, others stayed with her until they had to go over the Rainbow Bridge. She found homes for most of her rescued dogs herself, some others were placed by organizations.
The dogs Katja kept were mostly sick and old dogs and those with severe behavioural problems. Her main concern was to help the very sick, injured or damaged dogs.
Over the years she has come across many strays and needy dogs on Crete and tried to give them either a nice and permanent home here on Crete or, if possible, even on the mainland or abroad. These were always preceded by home visits on site and the dogs were given proper adoption papers.
Her first dog ‘Daisy’ was already deaf because she was born with this defect. Then there was ‘Raisa’, a healthy stray from the old part of Hersonisos, who was shot and paralysed. Then there was ‘Oscar’, a boxer who had leishmaniasis and was abandoned, and ‘Coco’, who was sweet but born already blind and with other problems, but was also a great fighter who took her difficult fate so well.
This does not mean that if she passes a helpless puppy or a crate full of abandoned puppies, she would not help them – but her main concern is to help those dogs who are sick, abandoned or paralysed and disabled because they have been hit by a car, or even those who show behavioural problems for many different reasons.
In her 21 years in animal rescue, Katja had already seen many terrible cases. Animals shot or burnt, dogs with their ears cut off, abandoned because of cancer or leishmaniasis or other diseases, because of old age and many other cases, the details of whose cruelty are better spared.
Many tears had already collected in rivers and lakes with her, until she realized that her bad experiences had made her so strong that she could give these things their place to process them.
Here goal is not to build a big, huge animal shelter, but to be one where those who need it most can live happily: the Furever Happy Village – which means, ‘a happy village of furry noses forever’!
The animals should be able to stay there until the Rainbow Bridge comes into view – or a place for those among them to recover from their worst ordeals and heal their wounds without being in an overcrowded home. This includes temporarily taking in dogs from other shelters, so they can recover in a more peaceful environment.
For Katja this means a lot of heartache, frustration, nightmares and sleepless nights, but this is what she wants!
As this task costs a fortune in vet bills, time and other unforeseen expenses, she needs the help of many other animal lovers to succeed!
In addition to her duties at ‘Furever Happy Village’, she still works part-time to support herself and earn extra money for her dogs.
Katja is currently caring about 30 dogs at ‘Furever Happy Village’. She only moved into her new piece of land for the shelter a few months ago and at the moment there are only temporary cages – or the dogs are housed in a cottage or even in her caravan. However, the animals are soon to move into their own small dog houses so that they can really feel at home and forget the circumstances from which they came here.
As she has already had many dogs and some cats with sometimes extreme problems, she knows how to avoid injections and carry out physiotherapies. As she has also been looked after by the same nice veterinarian Yiannis Fouskis and his team for many years and has built up an excellent relationship of trust with him, she is also sufficiently supported in this.
Unfortunately, however, it turned out afterwards that the piece of land that was bought can be flooded up to a height of more than 10 inches during the rains in winter. This is, of course, neither reasonable for Katja, nor for her dogs nor sustainable in the long run. Therefore, she is currently looking for another piece of land in Crete as soon as possible where she can move along with the dogs and the current status of the location of her shelter as well as the photos published here are only temporary and will be updated in the near future!
More pictures of the shelter
Current location of the temporary shelter at Alagni, south of Heraklion (Google Maps): Furever Happy Village Animal Shelter
Please contact Katja before visiting!
National Bank of Greece
Fundraiser: A home for Katja and her rescues