While his wife and granddaughter were out getting lunch, Marty Becker booked a spur-of-the-moment trip to Romania in April. His mission was to help Ukrainian refugees and their pets.
“I had this calling that I could go over there and make a difference,” Becker says.
Becker (’80 DVM), the founder of Fear Free Pets and a former chief veterinarian on Good Morning America for 17 years, hoped to remedy a surge of dog bites at the Romanian border.
“Almost everyone that was handling animals at the border was doing it incorrectly,” Becker says. “And that was causing a lot of unnecessary stress for the pets and injuries for the people handling them.”
He advised workers to kneel or squat, avoid prolonged direct eye contact, and allow the animal to approach first. The change immediately improved the interactions between people and dogs.
“I’d never been in a war zone before. I’ve been to hurricanes and other natural disasters in the US,” Becker says. “Katrina was the first time we saw that people will not leave their pets behind.”
Daniel Fine (’82 Lib. Arts), along with Mark Dyce (’89 Comm.), also spent April assisting refugee pets. Fine and Dyce worked with a team at ADA Foundation, a no-kill veterinary clinic and shelter in Przemysl, Poland, just 30 minutes from the border with Ukraine.
“During war, survival is often more difficult for domesticated animals. Stress is one thing, but we humans stripped away their survival skills,” Fine says. “Now they deal with land mines, being shot, missiles or just finding something to eat.”
While in Romania, Becker met a Ukrainian woman who had walked barefoot for ten days to reach the border. She had ten Jack Russell terriers with her—six strapped to her body, and four on leashes—and she was pulling a cart full of food and other supplies for the dogs. She had no food for herself.
“Her feet were frostbitten. She was going to lose toes,” Becker says.
“When your world is turned upside down, but you have the unconditional love of a pet, that is going to be what helps. That bond is unbreakable.”
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