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Nikos Tsikalakis: The Cretan with a Big Heart, ‘Savior’ of Stray Dogs

Εθνικός Κήρυξ

Some of the 175 dogs which Nikos Tsikalakis takes care of with love and affection.

BOSTON – The amazing story of Nikos Tsikalakis, a 40-year old man who lives like a hermit in Crete with his heart full of love for all the unprotected, stray, and injured dogs that have been brutally abused by cruel people or injured in car accidents, was brought to light by The National Herald in February of 2019. That article made the round of the world as Vlasia Stathakopoulou, a criminal justice lawyer from Piraeus who helps Tsikalakis pro bono as a volunteer informed TNH.

A few days ago Julie Scourfield from Manchester England wrote to us that “I support Nikos and his dog shelter, The Bronx, for which Theodore Kalmoukos wrote this article on 14 February 2019. The shelter has improved a lot since your article and we would be so grateful if you could update all your readers.”

It is reminded here that it all began when Nikos saw a wounded stray dog that was totally unprotected and needed surgery, so he took it home and cared for it.

He was born in Heraklion, Crete and at some point in his life he decided to devote himself to the care of the stray dogs of Crete.

Εθνικός Κήρυξ

Nikos Tsikalakis holding a stray dog in his arms with affection.

In 2018 he moved from Ierapetra to Kalo Horio – a municipality of Hersonissos in Heraklion. He then owned 37 dogs and lived in a tent throughout the whole year, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day next to his animals. Two years later he is still living along with his 175 dogs on his five-acre piece of land. The 5000 followers of Bronx Familia Animal Shelter Hersonissos Crete helped Nikos Tsikalakis expand and improve the shelter's facilities. Two fundraisers that were run in August 2019 and in February 2020 led to the construction of two containers for the accommodation of Nikos and the volunteers that arrive from all over the world in order to offer their valuable help to Niko's 175 dogs.

Stathakopoulou told TNH that “the next step is to apply for supply of electricity since now there is only one small diesel generator for getting the basic needs met. Mr. Tsikalakis is hoping that within the next year the dogs' facilities will be fully renovated and peoples' responses will be even greater.”

She also said that “Bronx Familia Animal Shelter is a non-profit organization striving to improve the welfare of stray animals through vaccination, microchipping, sterilization, hosting, and finding permanent homes for them. The organization relies entirely on voluntary contributions which are made directly to its official bank account. Our Facebook account is: Bronx Familia Animal Shelter Hersonissos Crete – please follow us. Protecting stray animals is a tall order but each one of us could make the difference for a better future for these amazing souls. We would like to thank so very much TNH and Mr. Theodore Kalmoukos personally for their tremendous help.”

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A volunteer from abroad who helps at Nikos Tsikalakis shelter for stray and injured dogs. PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Attorney Vlasia Stathakopoulou

In a telephone interview Mr. Tsikalakis told TNH that “last time we spoke in February of 2019, I had 75 dogs and now we have 175. A lot of them are injured in auto accidents. I take them and care for their therapy. I take dogs with serious problems. Also a large number of people bring their dogs to the shelter when they get old and they don't want them anymore.”

He also said that “now we have volunteers who help. We have made a container home and people come from all over the world they stay two weeks or a month and they all help. Presently I have no one, but a short time ago I had two women from France, also another lady had come from China and now I am expecting a couple from Spain. They live in the container and they help to feed the dogs, to clean their cages, to put out fresh water.”

Εθνικός Κήρυξ

The doghouses that Nikos Tsikalakis constructs for his dogs. PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Attorney Vlasia Stathakopoulou

In terms of financial support, Tsikalakis said “we are the people who sustain the project. Once we collect some money we give it to the doctor and the same applies for the dog food.” Asked if the State helps, he said he receives “no support whatsoever. the only thing that we get from the State and the authorities are fines.” Asked if the Church helps, he said “no, nothing” and he added that “except for two or three supermarkets that have given us dog food from time to time, there is absolutely no help from Crete, from churches, the municipality, or from anybody else.”

Nevertheless, he said that “I feel joy and humbleness because this project is a big mission. It is about 175 souls which were unwanted, but many dogs have been adopted.”