Serena Simmons Consultant Psychologist

Change. Motivate. Adapt. Improve. Perform

The stress of my holiday…

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It was all planned and I was wholeheartedly looking forward to my holiday to Crete!

I had just come back from a wonderful birthday weekend the weekend prior and had then spent the days leading up to my holiday frantically sending e-mails, finishing off work and also being in University seeing my students for last minute tutorials before I headed of for some sun, sea and relaxation…not to mention great food and drink!


The heat hit me as I stepped off the plane and it smelt, well, like it does whenever you reach a foreign clime.  Wonderfully different and with the promise of fun and relaxation to come.  But all was not as it seemed.

– I’m a nervous traveller – 

I am always a little nervous when I travel.  Not for the reasons people may assume.

Flying…no problem!  Foreign food….love it!  Language….bring it on!  I love to try and embarrassingly pick up a few words if I can.  I’m also really good at not knowing where I’m staying and will happily rock on up to anywhere without pre-booking (I’ve travelled a lot on that basis and love the seat of your pants up-and-off-we-go attitude.  Not everyone’s cup of tea I’ve come to realise).  I can rough it with the best of them too.  I’ve slept in petrol stations (yes, that’s right….not a crime in Europe), I’ve slept in the worst camp sites you’ve ever seen, with toilet facilities never to be thought about again, and I’ve slummed it on various hostels as well as slept outside under the stars….bliss.

No, what bothers me is what I will see in terms of animal welfare and damage to our planet.

Will the animals in that country be kept well….not in tiny cages or on short ropes.

Will they be fed.

Will they be loved.

Will they have homes or will they be stray.

Will I see plastic bottles everywhere.

Will I see mess and waste.

Will I see beautiful hotels, with slums just outside the walls where the tourists don’t like to go.

Well I can tell you that Crete is a beautiful land. I had glorious sun, 30-35 degrees the entire time.  The hotel was gorgeous and the staff friendly.  But sadly what I did see, was my nightmare come true.

Stray cats and dogs everywhere and all manner of dogs tied up (barrel dogs are a huge problem in Greece) on short ropes with no hope in their lives of ever straying more than a metre from a dirty barrel as they sit in their mess hoping to fed and be given water in the 30 degree heat, the couple of times a week their human may give them the grace of seeing them.

– The problem was big – 

I’ve been affected by this problem since I was a small child.

I was that child who brought home every stray she found.  Every injured animal I saw, hoping to nurse it back to health.  I hankered my parents for dogs, cats, hamsters, goldfish and stick insects.  Though we did have pets growing up, some who went on to be much loved family members, my parents were never a ‘fan’ of animals and so I was always considered strange and the hope was that I would ‘grow’ out of it.

Well I didn’t.  I haven’t.

In fact I feel more passionately about animals and animal welfare and the inextricable way we are damaging out planet as a direct link to this problem, at the forefront of what is important to me.

In Crete, I named the strays I saw.  There was Penelope the beautiful little black mutt, who hung out at the car rental place.  She was so sweet natured and tried desperately to challenge herself to get close to you even though she’d been beaten for years by her owners…


Then there was Stanley the most sweet natured little boy who was playful and friendly to foreigners but who seemed scared of locals…


There was also a sad but gorgeous little girl who I named Talulah. Many of the people I met fell in love with her.  I even saw one family who had attached a piece of string to het neck to try and find her help. But when the realised the extent of the problem, released her back on the beach and went back to their pool.  Not their fault as the plight is so desperate, but as every website will tell you, by all means give them some food, but do it away from your place of residence and don’t take them for walks.  They will get attached to you, and you give them hope only to have it quashed yet again, and again and again.

There were many more wherever I went…this little guy had a collar on but I was told had been abandoned by his owners on the streets and was now relying on handouts from kindly tourists.

Again, apparently this has become a high problem in recent years since the Greek economy collapsed and the people felt they were no longer able to take care of their animals.


There were also the cats.  So many cats!…




Every day, after the second day on my ‘holiday’.  I would plan my route.  First buying lots of food and filling bottles of water and then go off on my route to leave food and water for all of the animals that I had seen.

There was also one little special guy who melted by heart.  I names him Wilber…



He was on a couple of meters of rope and was left for days without food and water and in his own mess, which I would sweep up every day when I saw him.

I have to say that this holiday was quite stressful for me.

Friends who know me well, know that I’m like this and understand that I feel strongly about this huge issue.  I’m not able to, as I was told by someone I know to ‘…Not look.  Sit back and relax and just don’t look at it.  Read your book and enjoy your holiday!’.

My feeling is that it is everyones responsibility to open their eyes and to see the problems that impact the world around us and the living things in it, that is people but it is also animals.

As I transition out of this website you see before you, I felt it appropriate to share this story of my holiday with you as my feelings about this play a big part in the future re-branding of my business.  You see, in my new business, a percentage of all profits will now be going into my back-end A.P.E charity which will be geared towards the animal welfare and conservation.

My hope is that I will be able to significantly contribute to these much needed causes for the rest of my life in both a monetary sense but also in practical terms.  If you care too, you might be happy to know that any future work you do with me and with my new Business Ape-athy will be helping towards this also.

As the strap line for my new company goes…’All it takes is for one ape to think differently’….after all that is how change happens.

Thanks you for taking the time to read this very different post this week, and I shall see you again next week!

If you would like to help now there are 3 charities, 2 in Crete and 1 in Skiathos that do fantastic work that you can also contribute to.  They are:

Takis’s shelter:

Takis was a Greek dentist who gave up his profession to help the stray dogs in Crete:

Story about him HERE.

And his Facebook page HERE.

The Gouves Charity:

Click HERE to be taken to their Facebook page.

Skaithos Dog Shelter:

Click HERE to find out more.


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