“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.”
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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.”
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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.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.
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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.
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.
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.
Why do they do that? When dogs kick after going to the bathroom, they are using the scent glands on their paws to further mark their territory.