Dogs of war: Edmonds residents describe efforts to help animals at Polish rescue clinic

Injured Ukrainian dog Uncle Brian in a Polish shelter. (Photos courtesy Dan Fine)

This is the face of animals trapped in the Ukraine war. The wounds on his head tell just part of the story in a Polish rescue clinic as two Edmonds residents spend their second week helping pets and farm animals caught in the fighting.

Edmonds residents Dan Fine and Tana Axtelle left to help at a Polish veterinary clinic on March 28. The clinic is in Przemysl, about 10 miles from the Ukrainian border. The doctors there had rushed through visas for them, and the pair scrambled to bring supplies donated by South Snohomish County vets and friends.

Dan Fine with a Ukrainian dog from the war.
Tana Axtelle with a rescued war dog.

They have kept us posted on what they are seeing and how they are helping. This is the most recent message from Fine:

“They gave us a tour of their fantastic shelter. It rivals anything we’ve ever seen in the USA. They take care of wild animals, as well as domestic pets. During the war, they’ve stepped up and have over 70 dogs and a number of cats that have been brought over from Ukraine.”

Polish vets care for an injured Ukrainian cat.

Fine continues: “Some of these animals are physically fine, but you can see the terror in them. Some shake, or bite their tail, or just don’t know what is going on. Imagine being abandoned and left to fend for yourself in a country under siege with gunfire and missiles exploding.”

Closeup of Uncle Brian

This is Uncle Brian’s story: “Tana was at a shelter that had six dogs with both back legs broken,” Fine said. “We’ve also been caring for a dog that has multiple wounds to his face. Tana and I call him Uncle Brian. He’s a large dog and his head is shaved. His wounds itch, so we are always rubbing his forehead and scratching his ears to give him comfort.”

One of the first rescue dogs Fine and Axtelle met had been shot and will never be able to walk on his own again. The doctors and staff have a wheelchair ready for him when he recovers.

“Each day, we show up at ADA (the clinic) to walk the dogs at 6:30 a.m.,” Fine said. “We do this for a few hours andthen go back around 4 p.m. to walk them again. Tana has a studio apartment that she is currently sharing with a volunteer we met at the shelter from Denmark. I am staying at one of ADA’s other shelters and stay the night with seven dogs, eight cats and 22 puppies. Tana swings by and we walk together about 3 kilometers to the main shelter to do our dog walking.”

Fine also shot a short video that gives a peek at what they are doing and how the community has responded. At the end of the video, Fine lists three links for what he says are “safe and secure”ways to donate to the Polish pet rescues.

They have only been on the ground about 10 days and have had a crash course in trying to cut through the red tape. Fine said Poland has changed its laws since the fighting began and “now it is much harder to bring Ukrainian animals into the country. They are fearful of rabies, much like the USA and other countries. So, the game has changed here, and we need to support the animals in Ukraine.”

At the clinic, Fine and Axtelle met a fellow Puget Sound resident, Tom Bates, who has worked around the clock with a group that set up a warehouse, arranged shipments of food, pet medicine and supplies.

Pet rescue supplies heading for Ukraine.

Fine said the group does “daily crossings into Ukraine to make deliveries and to treat animals. It’s a pretty amazing story. Tana and I took the donations we received and bought them supplies, like a couple thousand dollars of flea medicine, cat food and even groceries to last a month for a team that was setting up a temporary animal shelter inside Ukraine.”

Fine says one volunteer group even approached them to fly animals out. But, the U.S. and Canada, he added, will not allow that without a long quarantine period. “That’s causing an overpopulation problem at the shelters”, added Fine; “also, supply chain routes are broken in Ukraine, so getting materials delivered is complex and dangerous.”

Dan Fine and some of his Ukrainian friends.

Axtelle and Fine know they are doing something worthwhile:

“The experience here has been both wonderful and horrifying at the same time,” Fine said. “Seeing these sweet dogs and cats only strengthens our resolve to try and ease the pain these innocent animals are suffering.”

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. Great job, Tana & Dan . It’s a huge undertaking and we are very proud of you for doing it. Thank you!!!

  2. Dan,

    You’re an inspiration and hero to dog lovers like us! — Cliff Sanderlin & Heather Marks

  3. This is great reporting Bob.

    Heartfelt Thank You Tana snd Dan for your four-legged humanitarian efforts.

    It’s so SAD what is happening over there and we must all help as the humanitarian effort will affect all of us for decades.

  4. Tana and Dan…
    You are both AWESOME for helping these poor animals. I see numerous animals in the war clips constantly……if you need help, let me know…semi-retired…and available to help you.

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