Albert Beigbeder, a 48-year-old commercial technician who runs the animal protection organization Aria Rescate, has just returned to Spain from the border between Ukraine and Poland, 5,000 kilometers (over 3,000 miles) round trip, where he went to rescue some thirty dogs, some of them with mobility problems.
Beigbeder explained to EFE that he has also taken advantage of the trip to bring two mothers from Medyka (Poland), with three daughters in total, who have already settled with their relatives in Girona (northeastern Spain).
“The idea of going to look for dogs that were in Ukrainian shelters was born from different animal organizations in Malaga (south), who informed Aria Rescate of the option of traveling to the border with a van with nine seats for people enabled for the transport of a quarantine of pets,” said Beigbeder.
“We didn’t know what the situation was with the dogs in Ukraine, but we were afraid that they wouldn’t let them get on the trains with their owners to leave the country, so we decided to go with the van to rescue as many as we could,” he said.
He was joined by three members of the shelter, who also brought dog food and veterinary supplies to Medyka.
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By contacting volunteers at the border, they found two Ukrainian families—two mothers, one with two daughters and the other with one—who were in a refugee center in Korczowa (Poland) and who wanted to reach Girona to settle with a relative who could take care of all of them for the duration of the conflict.
“At first, they were very quiet. After all, they were forced to rely on strangers to flee their country, but we gained confidence by communicating with them through Google translator and one of the daughters, who spoke a little English,” revealed the director of Aria Rescate.
The husbands of both women had to stay in Ukraine to defend the country as the Ukrainian government prohibits them from leaving.
The ‘Emotionally Exhausting’ Trip Lasted 2 Days
The journey, which took two days each way, was physically and emotionally exhausting for the members of the rescue team, who had to take risks to reach their destination as quickly as possible.
“The trip was a beating, especially the second day, when we could see that we were not arriving, and we had to drive for 16 hours non-stop,” recalled Beigbeder, who has led Aria Rescate since its founding in Barcelona in 2016.
Once they arrived in Medyka, they hoped to pick up dogs from the Polish shelter, but were warned of the difficulties in doing so, as the dogs would have to undergo a long period of quarantine.
When they received the news—which, in part, they were already expecting—they pulled strings to contact Ukrainians who wanted to take their dogs out of the country, and a girl with four paralyzed dogs and several cats was the first to ask for help.
“The return trip with the animals was also complex, because one of them, having his mobility affected, needed to be provoked to urinate by squeezing his bladder, and another had problems controlling his stool,” said the president of Aria Rescate.
Once they arrived in Spain, they headed to Madrid to deliver some of the animals to a shelter specializing in dogs with paralysis called Bichos Raros, although to comply with health protocols they must spend more than a month in quarantine, because in Ukraine canine rabies is widespread.
When the quarantine is over, the dogs will go through a process of tests and vaccinations to ensure their sanitary wellbeing, and later the shelter will try to put them up for adoption.
“Some people have criticized us for bringing dogs with such a high level of abandonment in Spain, where do we set the moral limits? In the end, there will always be criticism, so we are guided by what we believe is right,” reflected Beigbeder.
The Aria Rescate association, which was founded with the aim of rescuing fearful dogs—those that won’t let themselves be picked up and live for months on the street—is an animal protection organization whose main actions are rescues, talks, and once a year, they travel around Spain to help animal protection organizations all over the country.
The association uses the online tool Teaming, through which it receives micro-donations of one dollar per month per member to support the project. They currently have 270 ‘teamers’ and have raised more than 16,000 dollars since their foundation.