A woman has revealed how she travelled to war-torn Ukraine with the intention of helping refugees cross the border into Poland, but ‘fell in love’ with helping the ‘forgotten animals of war’.
Wendy Lloyd, from Harborne, south-west Birmingham, travelled to Ukraine to join the other brave Brits helping refugees cross the border into Poland from Ukraine, but while she was in a makeshift animal shelter in the mountains around Kyiv, Wendy met Rocket.
It was then, when meeting the three-legged cat, that Wendy began wondering how she could help the other pets that had been left behind as their owners fled Vladimir Putin ‘s wrath, reports Birmingham Live.
Rocket – who was named after the bombs pelting down around Wendy – was left with slim chances of survival. The woman running the pop-up cat sanctuary in the Kyiv Hills thought it was not necessary to give him the love and medical attention he so desperately needed.
Weny recalled seeing the feline for the first time, and said: “He was in a state when I first met him.
“The place he was staying was very cramped – through no fault of her own, this poor lady was inundated with 40 to 50 lost, abandoned and injured animals.”
Despite Rocket’s life not being on to a good start, as he was freed by his owners and hit by a car of another family who were desperate to escape the Russian onslaught, Wendy knew exactly the right people to nurse him back to health.
After an emergency trip to the vet and a few months of aftercare, Rocket is now happy and settled into his new forever home – 1,600 miles away in Birmingham.
And Wendy admitted that while being in Ukraine her love for animal rescue work was ignited once more. She said: “I fell into the whole animal side of things to be honest.
“I’ve always loved animals and had a couple of dogs in Harborne, but animal rescue work has never been a lifelong passion. It was simply the case that we went out there to help people, and when we’d done all we could, we diverted our resources to animals.”
Wendy, who owns The Classic Scooter Company in Stirchley, is part of a network of fearless volunteers risking their lives to help displaced Ukrainians fleeing the frontline.
And over the past few months, she has helped desperate families in cities like Kyiv, Chernihiv, Bucha and Lviv, which are some of the areas that have been most brutally targeted by the Russian despot, Putin.
Once Wendy and her team had done all they could to help people fleeing the war, they immediately diverted their attention to the helpless animals that were left stranded int he streets by their owners.
She said that: “When people flee an area there’s no rule book.
“Some people would lock their pets in their homes, putting down as much food and water as they could and leg it – while others would set them free onto the street.
“It’s a horrible decision for families to have to make – if you’re a mum and you have to choose between saving your children or the family pet, you know which one you’re going to take. There’s a lot of work going on as we speak with charities breaking into homes and rescuing deserted animals.”
The brave woman continued to say: “Russian soldiers would hand out food to civilians – as part of their propaganda mission – but the animals wouldn’t get anything. So we set up feeding stations on street corners where dogs and other animals – which were once domesticated – could eat.
“A lot of strays have now formed packs and it’s surreal because when you think about packs of stray dogs you’d think they would be vicious, but they’re all just the sweetest, most cuddly things.”
Towards the end of her trip, Wendy knew that she had to bring Rocket with her. She said that as she was delivering aid to the woman in the hills, who had the makeshift shelter, one cat in particular caught her eye.
While he didn’t have a name and was clinging on to life, Wendy said that she felt an urge to do something and help him out.
Despite admitting that she hadn’t come to Ukraine looking for a pet, in the midst of all the death and destruction, she found a life-long friend in Rocket who she brought back home with her.
Wendy recollected the very moment her eyes set on Rocket, saying: “We were in Lviv towards the end of our trip and suddenly the air raid sirens started going off to warn us that shelling was imminent.
“The noise just goes through your bones – it’s terrifying.
“Eight missiles came over our heads and we had to sit tight – the cat was the only one of us who wasn’t panicking. We were in the middle of having a discussion about what to call him so we settled on Rocket – he also looks like Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy so it works both ways!”
Feeling compelled to help, she brought him back with her.
And now the three-legged kitty is settled in his new home, Rocket – who Wendy says ‘acts more like a dog’ than a cat – has already started making friends with his new neighbours.
She said: “He’s settled in so well.
“He doesn’t do cat things as such, he comes to the pub with me and has become a regular at the Twelfth Man in Edgbaston. It only took a few days for his personality to come out but he’s doing amazingly well.”