By Lori Kalef, Program Manager
Thanks to many generous sponsors, approximately 500 dogs of Chernobyl received critical medical treatment this month. Along with our partner organization, Clean Futures Fund, and many dedicated Ukrainian nationals we held a successful three-week event focused on increasing the health and well-being of the dogs of Chernobyl.
I continue to be grateful to everyone involved in making this work possible. From North American donors and volunteers, to local veterinarians and power plant workers, the humanity of this operation is evident.
Since everyone can’t make it to Chernobyl, I would like to share some of my impressions from this latest trip. I could go on for pages, but a few things stuck out that warmed my heart.
First, I saw Symona, one of the dogs featured recently for sponsorship. Though she was spayed last year, this year she received updated vaccines, antiparasitic medication, and we tested her radiation levels to make sure she was safe.
We’ll continue caring for Symona to ensure she remains healthy. She lives near the cooling tower, where two friendly guards make sure she gets something to eat most days.
Second, our catching team continues to amaze me. This group of about eight people is made up of North American volunteers, a local translator, and a local veterinarian. Though some dogs come right up to them, many dogs hide in the overgrown forests and abandoned houses in and around Chernobyl.
To protect themselves from radiation, the team has to be very careful. They can’t place supplies on the ground, and they all wear long sleeves and pants. They have handled the near 100-degree days of the past few weeks amazingly well. Without them, none of this would be possible. Now in our third year of sterilizing and providing medical care, over 1300 dogs of Chernobyl have received treatment.
Last, but not least, our efforts in Chernobyl are truly making a difference. Though a few dogs remain unsterilized, the vast majority of dogs in the area are no longer reproducing. With fewer puppies being born, fewer dogs suffer.
On this trip, I found myself right under the unit 4 reactor where about eight dogs were roaming. Just two years ago, there were dozens of dogs in this location. The power plant workers used to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of dogs and couldn’t care for them all. With the reduced numbers of dogs, the workers can care for them all without the constant threat of more mouths to feed. It is truly a testament to what can be accomplished through partnership and hard work on behalf of animals in need.