“If you walked around the camps, there were so many refugees who brought their dogs. And it makes sense. It’s an extension of their family,” Jackson told CNN.
Jackson learned that dogs from Ukraine were not allowed to mix with local dogs in Polish shelters due to concerns about disease. So, he recently found an empty animal shelter in the city of Poznan and received permission to take it.
An overcrowded rescue organization in Ukraine was the first to send dogs to the Jackson shelter. A van arrived with 17 dogs, as well as two refugees, Valeria Liskratenko and her mother, Liliana.
“When they came to us, all I knew was that they had no money and nowhere to go,” Jackson said. “And I immediately saw that they got along well with dogs… I couldn’t help but notice that all the dogs really loved (them).”
He later learned that two women had spent 40 days in a Ukrainian bomb shelter caring for the dogs.
“Dogs helped (them) get through the worst 40 days (of their lives) and (they) helped these dogs get through the worst 40 days of their lives,” Jackson said.
Rescue of the dogs of war
Through a translator, Liskratenko told CNN that she and her mother have a love for dogs in their blood. Since she was young, they had puppies at home, and her mother sometimes brought stray dogs home to provide them with food and medical care.
The day before the start of the war, they moved into a bomb shelter with puppies in their care and adopted several old dogs at a nearby factory where Liskratenko worked as a security guard.
They ran back and forth from the orphanage to the factory to feed them. But when the shelling became too intense to continue the trip, they decided to bring the rest of the dogs to the bomb shelter.
Liskratenko said that one morning she and her mother were waiting for the right moment — after the end of the nighttime curfew and before the shelling usually began — to make the last start of the factory. They found that some of the dogs were too sick or injured to go with them, but they gathered all the dogs they could and herded them back to the bomb shelter. She said that when they reached safety, a bomb exploded right where they were running.
They did not want to leave the bomb shelter, but on May 4, Liskratenko decided to leave when the drinking water became contaminated and people and dogs began to get sick there.
They found an animal shelter in Ukraine, and people working there have seen Jackson’s social media posts about accepting dogs crossing the border. So, they contacted him and arranged a trip for Liskratenko to accompany the dogs to Poland.
Start of a new life
When Liskratenko and her mother arrived at the Planting Peace animal shelter in Poland, Jackson said he could tell they were nervous and afraid.
“They didn’t know Planting Peace… they’re in a new country. They don’t speak this language. We do not speak their language,” he said.
As refugees, Jackson said that Planting Peace would have helped Liskratenko anyway, but because they were so good with dogs and had a strong bond with them, he hired them to work at the shelter.
“They know these dogs very well. So they were able to transfer this knowledge to the veterinarian… “This dog didn’t eat, this dog didn’t drink.” So it was obviously incredibly valuable,” he said.
Liskratenko calls the dogs his children and says that they went through hell together and reached heaven. She says that the people in the shelter do not all speak the same language, but they understand each other because we are united by love.