US veterinarians are helping displaced Ukrainian pets. Here’s what they’re seeing

Geller and his fellow volunteers — who over the course of the next two weeks garnered the nickname the Blue Vet Group because they’d work late into the night in their glowing blue tent — also treated Romanian street dogs in need of care. But primarily, they took care of refugee pets to allow them to continue traveling throughout Europe.
A boy and his cat visit the tent run by the Blue Vet Group.A boy and his cat visit the tent run by the Blue Vet Group.Courtesy of The Street Dog Coalition
There’s a “substantial” European pet passport — according to Geller — that requires proof of rabies vaccination, microchipping and deworming. The team also provided other vaccines and treated pets for lice, ticks, fleas, internal parasites, skin issues and infections.

Stay consistent with training, play time and rest time for your pets so they don’t get too overwhelmed. Your calm and consistent demeanor will help your pet to understand that they can trust you. Once you earn their trust, understand the schedule, and feel secure in their safe place, both of your lives will be much easier.

“The animals that are still in Ukraine, that’s enough to break your heart to hear about. The ones that are coming across are the lucky ones right now.”Gary WeitzmanOne Ukrainian man came across the ferry with his Belgian Malinois.“One of our vet students was translating, and he indicated all he could talk about is his dog. They were just a team of two,” Geller said. “He was trying to travel across Eastern Europe to Western Europe where his wife and family were.”
 A Ukrainian refugee made it to safety with his beloved Belgian Malinois.A Ukrainian refugee made it to safety with his beloved Belgian Malinois.Courtesy of The Street Dog Coalition

Watch that plate of cookies! A Dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 – 100,000 times more acute as that of humans.

But the Ukrainian man worked on a Russian fishing boat and had Russian credit cards, which had all been cut off by international sanctions. He had no money and was out of gas. Geller said one of the local pet rescue groups gave him enough cash to drive to Austria, where he ran out of money and gas again. The veterinary students on Geller’s team arranged to get him cash from someone in Germany.“It took him five days to hook up with his family, but he and his dog made it,” Geller said. “He was so in love with this dog. He just showed us video after video. His dog was great — really friendly.”

Make him part of the family. Pets, especially dogs, need companionship. They are traditionally pack creatures and need the warmth and love that comes with living indoors with their family.

Though Geller returned to Fort Collins, Colorado, at the end of March, he plans to return soon to help establish a second tent on the Ukrainian side of the border to help pets quarantined for 21 days after a rabies shot before being allowed into Romania.
A Ukrainian girl brings her dog to the pop-up veterinary clinic at the Romanian border after fleeing her country.A Ukrainian girl brings her dog to the pop-up veterinary clinic at the Romanian border after fleeing her country.Courtesy of The Street Dog Coalition
His nonprofit, The Street Dog Coalition, which provides free veterinary services to pets of people experiencing homelessness, will continue to run the existing tent through April as part of its “Project Ukraine” initiative with support from Greater Good Charities, SPCA International and donated veterinary supplies from Merck Animal Health, he said.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Have you ever wondered why your dog curls up in a ball when they sleep? It’s actually an age-old instinct to keep themselves warm and to protect vital organs while they sleep.

He’s been impressed by how “tough and stoic” the Ukrainian women are. Most men aged 18-60 are prohibited by their government from leaving Ukraine so they can stay and fight.

“Walking through the cold, bitter wind with their kids, their pets, their luggage and not knowing where they’re going to end up — these ladies were tough,” he said.

Ukrainian refugees are mostly women, children and the elderly.Ukrainian refugees are mostly women, children and the elderly.Courtesy of The Street Dog Coalition

Because refugees came in waves whenever a ferry arrived, Geller and his team spent some of their downtime between ferries getting to know the international community of volunteers working for a common cause.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: According to the ASPCA, around 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year. Interesting in adopting a pet? Make sure to do your research ahead of time to find the animal that's right for you!

Geller, a 71-year-old who normally doesn’t smoke, drink or eat meat, joked that he “got corrupted” while trying to connect in a positive way while overseas. For starters, people with a little free Greek restaurant got him smoking Greek cigarettes. The Romanian border guards introduced him to Romanian fruit vodka. The nonprofit World Central Kitchen doled out hearty servings of Romanian chicken and pork, which he ate with gusto.