Standing inside an animal shelter near the Ukrainian border, veterinarian Cliff Redford is holding a baby goat named Mya. Redford says this animal is symbolic of what he is seeing over there.
“It’s definitely been more emotional, more heart breaking than I anticipated,” he said.
Redford owns an animal hospital in Markham, Ont. He came to Poland 11 days ago in the hopes of helping.
He tells the story of that baby goat, saying she came to the border with an old woman. The woman was fleeing the war.
“This little goat was her only family,” he said. “She said in broken English, I will be back when the war is over.”
The woman, like so many, had to carry on, while people like Redford are caring for the animals that cannot make the journey.
“They’re displaced, they’re hurt, they’re scared. Just like the people and unfortunately they have nowhere to go so they’re ending up in these shelters.”
Speaking from Przemsyl, on the Polish side of the border, Redford and his 21-year-old daughter Emily have been working at a shelter nearby.
Redford says some animals have been injured in the chaos as millions flee their homes, others actually injured in Russian attacks.
Recently, the Polish government stopped stray animals from crossing the border as a mean of preventing disease outbreak among all of the refugees coming from Ukraine.
Redford and a few colleagues made a trip into Lviv.
“We ended up actually saying, if the animals can’t come to us for us to take care of them, we’re going to them,” he said.
They brought over 500 pounds of food, basic medical supplies, and antibiotics to a shelter that has 300 dogs and has been cut off from its supplier in Russia.
In Lviv, he saw a city prepared for a possible attack, prepared if the war comes further west.
“It became very very real all of the sudden, where we were and what people were dealing with,” he said.
Redford will leave this weekend and through he is overwhelmed by the enormity of what is happening, he is helping. He says he has also found a new calling.
“I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life,” he said. “I’m going to be volunteering and rescuing animals and it’s really given me a new passion.”