Nancy Bletsa

Ever since I had imatiothiki I was doing research online, searching for people that intrigued me in some way or another, people that made a difference somehow. What fascinated me in Nancy was this balance of feminine dresses and red lipstick, but at the same time a roll up your sleeves attitude on helping animals and strays and using her social media voice to find homes for them. Fast forward to today, some years have gone by and I am back on track with photo shoots and presenting you with amazing people, and the time has come to see Nancy through my lens. My one and only lens, as the first photoshoot of the return on imatiothiki happened to be the day I left one lens at home and one more broke during the shoot. But good things come to those who… love cats I guess? And Nancy was such a lovely host, posing for me in long dresses and kimonos, while both her cats purred in the background. Kudos to her husband, Konstantinos, who made the most delicious strawberry tart for us – I ate it while driving back home, didn’t even have the decency to properly serve it on a plate.

Hi Nance, thank you for having me in your apartment. How did you and your husband settle down in this place.
I’m so glad to have you here! Well, after spending more than a year searching for a place within walking distance from the city centre, we came across this flat and, though at the time it looked nothing like today, we immediately saw the potential it had to become the home we dreamed of.

You seem to have set up a nice British place in the centre of Athens. Can you tell me a little bit about the furniture and decorative accents you chose to bring this out in your space?
I was never a fan of the minimal/clean-cut interior approach or the deco do’s and dont’s, rules and mantras. Although they may be aesthetically pleasing, I always believed that a home should tell the story of its owner. Almost every little thing I own has a sentimental weight and a reason to be in my place -such as a memory of a trip, a person, an era. I tend to be very emotional with what surrounds me, it’ s kind of my comfort zone to return at the end of the day to things that had their own journey alongside me. I guess you could call me a sentimental hoarder.
Having said that, yes, there may be a special bond between me and the British culture. It has been (kind of obsessively) my number one destination and my top retirement goal for as long as I can remember -Brits come all the time to Greece to retire, I would gladly swap places with one of them!
About the furniture, it is a mixture of things I found in second hand and vintage shops, as well as flea markets all around Athens, where I spent hours digging for treasures when we first moved in. Still, I often come across knick-knacks that I find hard to resist to. Oh, and of course some IKEA stuff that never look as good in your house as they looked on catalogue.

Your collection of dresses is stunning. Do you have any special pieces that have a nice story to them?
I think I could do a lot better, if you ask me! I actually don’t splash out on clothes. I often swap items with friends or attend bazaars where you always find hidden gems. You know how it goes, “one woman’s trash…”. I also never throw away clothes. There are so many charity events, shops and organisations to donate them to.
I treasure some special pieces, handmade dresses, gloves and hats from the fifties and sixties that a friend gave to me after his grandmother passed away and also some pieces that a friend of mine who works as a costume designer and used in plays gave to me. And of course, my utter beloved one, the “Porcelain dress” as I call it, a stunning number by Milkwhite.

I know you are a vet and a renowned cat lover. What makes cats better than dogs – said the dog person?
I never said cats are better. They are just a lot different from dogs. Perhaps better at home training – just a box of sand and they are all set. Try that with a new puppy, see where it’ll get you.
Jokes aside, I think I tend to connect more easily with them, as I get along even with “difficult” cats -at least that’s what their owners tell me. That doesn’t mean I do not appreciate and cherish the special bond, the kindness and loving devotion a dog can give you selflessly, for a lifetime.

What would be the greatest challenge in being a vet?
Off the top of my head, I would say not being bitten or scratched every other day… Just kidding. Maybe not being too emotionally attached to your patients and finding balance between your personal and professional life. Still struggling with both.

What is the most bizarre animal you ever had to examine?
Α tiny marmoset monkey, who was brought to the animal hospital I was working at the time with an eye infection. All of the hospital staff was trying to squeeze into the examination room just to see it up close.

I think Greece is the only place I have ever been to that has so many strays. Do you think that will change now that people are getting their pets chipped? Have you ever found a chipped animal abandoned?
First of all, having our pets microchipped is a very easy and practical way to increase the chances of finding them in case they get lost. It is the most responsible thing to do as a pet owner plus it’s, you know, obligatory by law. I have witnessed many lost dogs reunite with their owner thanks to a simple microchip scan at the nearest vet.
I strongly believe that the root of the problem regarding the Greek strays lies to the lack of education and the greek culture in general. The former is improving slowly yet steadily within the recent years, but the latter needs still work to be done. We, as a society, have to radically change our mindset about animal rights (and other rights, but that’s a different discussion), in order to sensitise the Greek state and its citizens. We shouldn’t only highlight the problem but also suggest solutions, such as encouraging and informing pet owners about responsible adoption and neutering of pets. Everything begins inside the family and the school environment, so that’s where we should start working in order to see a sustainable change.
And to quote Gandhi “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’

You just opened your private practice ‘The Pet Society’ which is a big step in your career and personal goals – I presume. How hard has this journey been and how rewarding is it to finally be able to have your own space to tend to these animals?
“Big step” is an understatement, especially considering the Greek factor when it comes to open your own business, as I suppose we all have heard horror stories on the matter. Well, all the horror is true –and then some. But it came a moment in my life where I had to choose between what I really wanted to do, career-wise, and what was the safe thing to do, which at the time was to stay in my well-paid and full of perks job. And I realised that taking care of animals had become such a huge part of my identity not only as a vet but as a person, that I really couldn’t settle for anything else.
I’m still working on the finishing touches at my clinic and, to be honest, there have been (and still are) times where I doubt my decision and wonder why do I bother going through all this Greek bureaucratic nightmare while getting lost in translation with mechanics and all sorts of technicians, where I can just work a 9-to-5 job for someone else and get it over with.
And then comes the overwhelming feedback from all the people who believe in me and trust me with their pets’ lives. And I say, well, screw it, I did the right thing.

What would your spirit animal be?
Just like my Harry Potter patronus, I think it would be a resilient animal such as a cat. I’m curious, fairly independent  and whenever I’ve fallen, I’ve always landed on my feet.

Find Nancy on Instagram and at The Pet Society.

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