Our first Animal Heroes Dog Village in Ukraine


Last week our team just came back from Ukraine. Our trip started with an 8-hour bus trip from Poland to Lviv, and for the first time ever we were the only ones at the border control. Still, it took two hours to pass both borders, but that’s a new record and is as smooth as it gets. We were the only foreigners on the bus, and it is an excellent way to travel, because you can’t take a Polish rental car across the border into Ukraine.


Our logistics manager has a talent to find us the most economical accommodation, which turned out to be an astronaut capsule for the price of 7 euro’s night! You can’t stand in it, and it has vertical stairs to reach it. It even came with a ceiling full of stars and included in the price…. a bomb shelter.


Shopping thanks to Finnish donors

Our Manager Finland, Carina Lintula (sort of last minute) asked if we could also buy 1000 euros worth of food for the 400 dogs in the shelter, donated through her Finnish organisation Animal Aid Without Borders. Of course we can! Transport for this huge amount of food proved to be more complicated than organising our spacecraft hotel. So after knocking on doors on various rental car offices in town (without any luck) we met our dear friend Olga to go shopping for medicine, anti-ticks and anti-flee tablets. The next stop was a mega garden store in the middle of nowhere, where we arrived in some kind of a taxi. People who know me, know that I hate shopping, but I felt like a fish in the water to be able to spend 1000 euros to buy dog food!

While the machine started to lift piles of 25kg bags of food, we still had a minor detail to solve… we still didn’t have transport.. Oops.

Yellow ambulance

Scanning the carpark we found two potential victims with a van. One seemed reluctant but said yes!! It was a canary yellow van that looked from a different century. His name is Anatolja, he reversed his van to our pile of food and started loading it. And off we went. It turned out to be an old ambulance from 1991 and was even decorated with carpet with flowers. When sometimes things don’t go as planned, you needed to improvise a bit. Ironically no seatbelts in the ambulance, but we got there safely.

We should have taken ice skates, because the shelter was one big ice rink. As soon as we came in, we were greeted by 20 friendly dogs that were walking freely. Some other dogs were rather territorial and made it clear not to cross their territory. Happy feelings about the shopping and the unusual transport experience vanished when we saw so many dogs, each with their own story to tell, waiting for their human friends to come back for them. And as the time passes, it is unlikely they ever will.

Natalia – Animal Hero

Natalia is the founder of this shelter, which is the oldest and largest in Lviv. She has run it for more than 20 years with great love and dedication. Instead of 200 dogs, she now cares for more than 400 dogs, most of which have come from fleeing Ukrainians and from the East of Ukraine where they are still fighting a lot today.

Natalia’s dogs are ‘the lucky’ ones, because they are safe and they receive food. But the food is mainly porridge, because there is no money for a more balanced diet. Many dogs are traumatised and are kept in the most far-away corners of the shelter, to minimise their stress. Natalia didn’t want the dogs to see us, as it would unsettle them; a good sign, as it means that the welfare of the dogs is the most important thing to her.

As we were walking there, we got a notification that Russian aircraft were flying over the area. Even though I felt quite safe where we were, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.

Our first Animal Heroes doghouse village

Thanks to all your support and thanks to Olga Kirilovich from Pet-Friendly NGO (we couldn’t have done this without Olga’s amazing support), we managed to build our first Animal Heroes doghouse village containing 25 (locally built) wooden doghouses for the dogs that didn’t have a roof on top of their head. They had just been delivered and it reminded me a bit of the Smurfs village. It would be great if we could have painted them in all colours of the rainbow, to make the shelter a bit more colourful. But with so many animals without housing or food, we don’t have that luxury.

We were there also for another reason, but we will keep that for another day!

As we were on our way back the air raid went off in Lviv, and even though that area is rather save compared to other areas, let us all hope this terrible war ends sooner than later.

If you want to help Ukrainian animals, please donate for our second Animal Heroes dog village:

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