During the war, probably every person reassessed his orientations, inner values and pillars of support. But for most Ukrainians, family and pets, their safety and health, will always come first. Ukrainian women and men shared their stories of what they had to go through to protect and preserve the lives of their pets.
Candles were recorded for the “War Archives” project.
The “War Archive” team collected the stories of Ukrainian men and women about their pets and asked a veterinarian to comment on the impact of various manifestations of war on cats and dogs.
The names of the heroes of the material, except Yevhen Kibets, have been changed for security reasons.
“Either I don’t bring the dogs to the bomb shelter, or I leave with them”
Already from the first days of the war, Tamara from the Kyiv region organized a shelter not only for people, but also for her two dogs. However, not everyone in the basement agreed with the animals hiding nearby from the shelling. Next is her direct speech.
In the first days of the war, I organized a shelter, moved all food stocks from home there, helped psychologically support people who were horrified by reality. My two dogs were always with me.
After the first week of occupation, the people in the shelter started complaining about my dogs and giving me an ultimatum – either I don’t bring my dogs to the bomb shelter any more and I can stay, or I leave with them.
It was a shock for me, because I could not leave the dogs, one of them was already old and deaf, they are like children to me. I decided to go back to the house with them. The next day, the bombardment began, enemy vehicles drove under my windows.
There were no food stocks at home, because she took everything to people in the bomb shelter the day before. No medicines, no food, I am alone, surrounded by Russians. We had to imperceptibly let the animals into the yard to do “their” business, to cook the leftovers of porridge and food on a home-made stove.
I tried somehow to get in touch so that I could be evacuated, but the head of the village community told me to drop my dogs and run to the center, no one would follow me. I decided to stay with them again. After some time, a stranger was able to evacuate me and the animals, I am infinitely grateful to her.
Almost two years after the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the problem of admitting people with animals to shelters was solved – at the end of January, the Ministry of Internal Affairs officially canceled the rule about not admitting animals to shelters (but there are nuances).
“They came to Bucha at the addresses of those who left and left their animals at home”
Volunteer Yevhen Kibets began rescuing animals after the full-scale invasion began. It was a completely new role for the concert manager. Yevhen now has his own cat shelter, which is replenished with new furries every day. Next is his direct speech.
We started driving around Kyiv region from mid-May 2022. In the morning, they came to Bucha at the addresses of those who left the city and left their pets at home. They also had the addresses from where the animals escaped. That’s how we found cats, dogs, and even once found a chinchilla. Of course, we entered houses and yards only with the permission of the owners.
The most difficult thing was to see how the animals were not saved. Often because the animal was locked up and we couldn’t get to it. There were people who said that it is forbidden to make a hole in the door, for example feed through the door hole. But then they still handed over the keys to the apartment.
I personally did not leave the city because of the cat. Well, where, the queues are such, it’s stress for the animal. And now I already have four cats, all rescued.
In January 2023, I started making a shelter for animals. Now we have 48 cats. These are rescued by volunteers, soldiers, almost every week someone comes with a cat.
There was a cat from Gorenka – from the house where Banksy painted a man taking a bath. You remember, almost nothing remained of that house. So every day the cat returned to the apartment, which left an empty space and debris.
She was white, with one eye blue and the other yellow. Such symbolism is a cat with yellow-blue eyes, which every day tries to get into its apartment, which is not there. She was caught by a volunteer and has now found a home in Vienna.
She carried a dog in her arms under fire
The story of Tatiana from Mariupol* is no less heroic. A woman saved her dog despite the risk to her own life:
“For three nights we wandered around the city, everyone was powerless, no one ate anything, I had no strength, I was shaking, but the dog was next to me.”
Tatyana carried the dog in her arms all the way under fire. It seemed to her that the three-kilogram dog weighed a ton. Running between explosions, sitting through shelling in entrances, an extremely difficult and dangerous road – a woman and a dog overcame everything together.
“Our goats, cows, rabbits never did not give birth to live animals”
Veterinarian Karina Shustyk, using the example of her own dog, knows how much stress can negatively affect animals.
“Just a day after the start of a full-scale stress war, my dog started turning gray. Stress can affect the health of animals, including changing the color of their fur. This may be due to an increase in the level of melanin, the pigment responsible for the color range of the fur However, not all animals turn gray under stress, for example, some species of animals may turn gray with age.“.
Doctors say that we will feel the effects of permanent stress years later, because the human body is quite stable, and its psyche can be regulated with the help of therapy, breathing practices, and physical activities. What can you say about animals and their reaction to stress. Veronika from the Kherson region told how, in her opinion, the occupation affected domestic animals:
“Our goats, cows, rabbits have never (during the occupation – ed.) given birth to live animals. My parents and I do not know the reason. Neighbors say that they have the same situation with animals. It’s scary. It’s scary.”
Veterinarian doctor Karina Shustyk says that owners often underestimate stress in animals. Although the consequences of such disrespect can be quite serious. It is very important to try to avoid stressful situations, just in case, to know the signs of stress and the principles of helping an animal in such a state. Symptoms of stress in animals are:
- constant licking, combing or biting of the fur. But skin diseases or parasites can also cause such behavior;
- whipped fur;
- increased sensitivity, i.e. the animal suddenly began to react to touches or sounds that it may be afraid of;
- refusal to eat or, on the contrary, uncontrolled stress “eating”;
- fear of being alone at home;
- restless, anxious behavior;
- twitching or trembling of body parts;
- cats may start going to the toilet in other places, for example, on the owner’s bed.
Rocket attacks, explosions, cannonades, sirens are the causes of stress in wartime not only for people, but also for pets. Unusual scary sounds cause anxiety in animals, which is accompanied by various reactions – panic, state of “stupor”, barking, howling, trying to hide in a cozy place and other atypical reactions.
How are signs of anxiety detected in animals?
- Twisted trembling pose;
- trying to find a quiet place;
- howling or meowing;
- pressed or slightly pulled back ears;
- timid, averted look;
- rapid breathing;
- uncontrolled urination or bowel movements.
The veterinarian recommends relieving an acute panic attack in animals with tranquilizers:
“These can be pills, suspensions, drops on the withers, collars or sprays. Only your veterinarian prescribes sedatives, because the reaction of each animal’s body is individual. Do not engage in self-medication.”
Sometimes animals themselves run away from home. Marina from Kharkiv region, who survived the occupation, suggests that her cat Chip disappeared because he sensed danger:
“I looked for him everywhere, I already thought that somewhere he died from stress or was blown up by a mine. I couldn’t find him for more than a month of occupation. But on the second day after the liberation of the village, he came home. He lost a lot of weight, became nervous and angry. And he is still in my arms doesn’t go.”
In the family of this woman, they joke that the cat Chip did not want to live under the “racist” flag. Or maybe he was a “corrector” and had a secret mission – to help the Ukrainian army. After the deoccupation, the cat never ran away from home.
Animals cannot tell about their pain, emotions, excitement, that they are also afraid if they hear explosions or their owners are nervous. We can only protect them, be patient and gentle with them. And it is in our power not to abandon our animals to their own devices.
The material was created from stories recorded by eyewitnesses of war events and crimes. Such evidence is collected by the project created NGO “Docudayz” and Infoscope, Archive of War. If you are ready to tell about your war experience, fill out the questionnaire or just call +380669996633.
The war archive is a non-public resource. The provided testimony is securely protected from prying eyes and becomes public only with the prior consent of the witnesses.
The illustration for the text was made by EtchingRoom1, an art group founded in 2016 by two graphic artists, Kristina Yarosh and Anna Khodkova. The artists work in the etching technique, create mosaics and installations.
EtchingRoom1 had personal and group exhibitions in Ukraine (Art Arsenal, Artsworld, Odesa Art Museum) and abroad (ArtEast Gallery Berlin (Germany), Caricature Museum (Austria), 59 Rivoli (France) and others).
This material was created by the “War Archive” with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation. And also ISAR Unity within the project “Initiative of sectoral support of civil society”.
The author is Julia Tribe, analyst of the department of analytics and tagging of the “War Archives” project, especially for UP. Life