The Man Devoting His Life To Saving Dogs After Rescuing One From The Dump
One day six years ago, Theoklitos Proestakis was curious about his local garbage dump on the Greek island of Crete, where he lives.
So, he decided to pay a visit. A dog he met there completely changed his life forever.
Proestakis, or Takis for short, told CBS News he came upon an injured dog among the trash and knew he had a responsibility to help it. He took the pup to the veterinarian and got it the medical care it so desperately needed.
Proestakis said he didn't have space in his house at the time to bring the homeless dog with him, so he put the pup back in the rubbish area. But, he came by every day to see the dog and give it medicine.
Then, more dogs began to appear from the trash.
"Another dog and another dog and another dog," recounted Proestakis. "I was taking care of 50 dogs. After a few days, I was taking care of 70 dogs. Every single day."
He fed and provided medical care for the dogs for nearly a year, before people living nearby the dump began to complain that the dogs were causing trouble.
Proestakis said the neighbors told him they were thinking of poisoning the pups, but he was determined not to let that happen. So, he asked the disgruntled people for 30 days to find a place to take the dogs.
Proestakis was able to find and purchase a 500-square-meter piece of land near the dump, and before the 30 days was up, he moved the 70 or so dogs he was caring for to the space. He named the area "Takis Shelter."
Now, six years later, Proestakis is caring for 342 dogs at his shelter, along with goats and cats that he has rescued, by himself. He says all of the dogs have names and he remembers each and every one of them.
The space is a "free shelter," so the dogs are permitted to run around the land and are not locked inside.
The shelter has grown to 33,000-square-meters and costs about $8,000 monthly to operate, with new dogs coming in regularly. Takis credits the generous donations from people all over the world with keeping his doors open, after he spent $185,000 of his own money, earned from 20 years in the night club industry.
"This is how the shelter is alive still," said Proestakis."Because of donations around the world."
He regularly posts videos of his daily life with the animals and information about dogs that can be adopted on social media -- especially his Facebook page.
While he says people don't throw dogs in the garbage dump area anymore, as the space is no longer used for rubbish, he regularly saves abandoned or stray dogs and posts the incredible rescues on Facebook, as well.
Over 279,000 people like the page, with popular videos garnering thousands of views. His social media following has boosted donations immensely, he told CBS News.
While hanging out with hundreds of dogs may seem like a great gig, Proestakis said it's hard work.
"There is not any time for myself," he said. "I am working 20 hours per day. I try to sleep two to three hours per day."
Proestakis lives on the shelter property in a small container house, so he could be closer to the pups. But even when he's in his home, he's surrounded by furry friends.
"I have about 11 to 12 dogs in the bed," he said. "I have the most sensitive dogs in the container house with me — two paralyzed dogs, young puppies..."
While taking care of the dogs may be grueling, Proestakis said he couldn't imagine doing anything else. "Everything happens for a reason," Proestakis told CBS News. "I think I was born for this. I love it so much."
He said his goal is to get as many of the dogs adopted as possible, with more than 200 of the pups being adopted so far, to free space for dogs currently on the streets. Approximately 1,000 dogs have been rescued and taken into the shelter since its creation.
He also hopes to expand the shelter. "I want to buy all the mountain and make the biggest free shelter for the dogs, so I can help more and more."