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Mother, daughter dog trainers arrested after video of their techniques goes viral

Tina Frey and Victoria Brimer (Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office)


WKRC Staff

Tina Frey and Victoria Brimer (Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office)

LENA, La. (WKRC) — A mother and daughter who run a dog training facility in Louisiana are facing charges after a video of their controversial methods went viral, according to authorities.

Tina Frey, 52, and her daughter, Victoria Brimer, 21, own and operate the Cypress Arrow Kennel & K9 Academy.

The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office said they received complaints about animal cruelty at the business.

Police said video was taken of a lesson that reportedly shows Frey “striking a Cane Corso dog on the head with a riding crop.”

Frey’s attorney, Brad Drell, claims she is an “expert” trainer who has never hurt or injured an animal.

He also argued that the breed of dog is well over 100 pounds it can potentially be dangerous to humans if not trained properly.

The video circulating of Ms. Frey using a squirt [a short whip] on [the dog called] Fenixx creates a false impression that dogs are being injured,” Drell said. “While the video is disturbing for many to watch, what needs to be understood is that Fenixx at the time was attempting to chew through a leash, which would have allowed Fenixx to bite either Ms. Frey or her daughter. “

In the footage, Drell added, both Frey and Fennixx can be seen using the squirt on themselves, as well.

While the quirt makes some noise, it is flexible and not painful,” he said. “While I understand that many people feel, and some quite strongly, that the use of the quirt is not what they would do to correct a dog, the use of the quirt is not inhumane under the law. Fenixx was in no way injured, as is shown in the video.”

Police said the arrests were still celebrated by many animal and rescue organizations that shared the video online as a warning to pet owners.

Frey and Brimer have each been charged with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. They were both released on a $10,000 bond, but police said the investigation is still active, and more charges could be filed.

“I want to thank the public for bearing with us while we conducted a complete and thorough investigation into these allegations” said Sheriff Mark Wood. “I would also like to commend our Animal Control Section and our detectives in their investigation of this incident and to staying the course, following the evidence where it leads and not bending to pressure of a quick arrest” said Sheriff Mark Wood. “We always take these animal complaints seriously as we do all crimes, but we also have to investigate and make sure the alleged crime fits the law.”


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102 kilometers per hour would round that off to 63.38 miles per hour… That’s one fast Kitty 🐆

Deaf dog was rescued after falling down a 100-foot cliff

Hobo, an 8-year-old Australian Shepherd, was rescued after the San Diego Humane Society said he slipped into a ravine near his family’s property in Sorrento Valley, falling down a 100-foot steep hill.

Heather Brinkmann

Video released by the San Diego Humane Society shows the organization’s emergency response crew saving an 8-year-old Australian shepherd after the dog fell 100 feet down a steep hill in Sorrento Valley, California. (Credit: San Diego Humane Society / MAGNIFI U /TMX)

SAN DIEGO – Thanks to the quick actions of emergency crews in Southern California, a deaf dog is safe after a terrifying fall down a 100-foot hill.

Hobo, an 8-year-old Australian Shepherd, was rescued after the San Diego Humane Society said he slipped into a ravine near his family’s property in Sorrento Valley, falling down a steep hill.


“One of our Humane Officers responded to the scene first, climbing down loose rock to reach the dog,” the humane society said.

But officers realized the hike back up was too dangerous, so they needed to call for backup.

The San Diego Humane set up safety lines to rappel down the steep terrain and worked to bring him back up the hill. 

(San Diego Humane Society)

“Members of the ERT Technical Response Unit rushed to the scene, setting up safety lines to rappel down the steep terrain,” they said.


It took five people to free Hobo from the brush before they could secure him.

After a grueling four hours, crews said they were able to make it safely back up the hill, and Hobo was reunited with his family. 


It’s National Dog Day

On their special day have some fun with your pup and enjoy the fresh air

Dogs getting sick with parvo-like virus in northern Michigan, dying within 3 days. ((UPDATE))


An unidentified virus has been sickening and killing dozens of dogs in northern Michigan over the past month.

Similar to canine parvovirus in symptoms, the illness first appeared in Otsego County in northern Michigan, but has spread further north, animal experts in the state say.

Parvo is a highly contagious viral disease of dogs that causes acute gastrointestinal illness in puppies, according to the Baker Institute for Animal Health. The disease, often fatal, most often strikes in pups between 6 and 20 weeks old, but older animals are sometimes also affected.

“The state is in a panic right now,” Clare County Animal Control Director Rudi Hicks told the Clare County Cleaver.

The new unidentified virus is suspected to have come from Louisiana. It kills dogs within days of symptoms, Hicks told the outlet.

How many dogs died? What symptoms did they have?

More than 30 dogs had died of the disease in Clare County alone as of Thursday, Hicks said. It’s not yet known how the virus spreads.

“It is a virus much like parvo, possibly a different strain” said Melissa FitzGerald, director of Otsego County Animal Shelter in Gaylord, Michigan, about 50 miles south of Mackinaw City.

Symptoms, she said, include bloody diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy.

What dogs are affected by the virus?

The virus affects puppies and older dogs, and when the animals are tested by veterinarians, the initial test for parvo is negative, FitzGerald told USA TODAY.

Usually, the dogs die within three to five days. 

As of Monday, FitzGerald said, no dogs at the Otsego County shelter, 70 miles north of Clare County, had contracted the virus.

Most of the dogs who have contracted the illness have been under the age of 2, the Otsego County Animal Shelter posted on Facebook, and some of the dogs were vaccinated.

FitzGerald said some of the dogs have been sent to The Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for a necropsy. 

“The necropsy does show parvo,” she said. “The State vets office is hoping to learn more and come up with a defense as we get more specimens (either necropsies or fecal matter).” 

The shelter has been in close contact with veterinarians in Gaylord, Traverse City, Grayling, Mancelona and Indian River trying to find a solution, but there is currently no cure. 

Jane Sykes, professor of medicine and epidemiology at University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said that as of Monday she had not heard of any similar cases in California.

“However, there are outbreaks like this that occur periodically,” Sykes told USA TODAY. “Sometimes it is a new pathogen, sometimes a combination of pathogens together with stressors in shelter environments, sometimes it can relate to diagnostic test problems, or problems with vaccination protocols.”

How to keep your dog safe from a parvolike virus

In an effort to avoid the virus, FitzGerald said pet owners should get their pets vaccinated. 

“If you don’t know if your dog is properly vaccinated or you don’t know what properly vaccinated is, contact a veterinarian,” FitzGerald said.

She also recommended keeping pets away from other dogs or areas where a lot of dogs have been, including dog parks. 

What human foods can dogs eat?:Here’s some of what is and isn’t safe for your pet to consume.

Do dogs have nightmares?:Your canine’s dream state, explained.

Why does my dog tilt its head?:Trying to understand your pet’s nonverbal communication.

Why do dogs lick you?:Explaining why your pet does it and when it might be too much.

Contributing: Layla McMurtrie, Detroit Free Press


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Award-winning photographer launches stunning portraits of ‘survivors’ of South Korea’s dog meat trade, now living their best lives – Humane Society International

Wilf, dog meat trade survivor


Sophie Gamand

As the South Korean government ponders a possible ban on the country’s dog meat industry, the remarkable resilience of some of the lucky canine survivors of that trade who now live in adoptive families in the United States, feature in a stunning new portrait series by award-winning photographer, Sophie Gamand. Gamand’s Survivors of the Dog Meat Trade portraits appear for a limited showing at the Hamilton-Selway Fine Art gallery in West Hollywood. The portraits feature a handful of the more than 2,500 dogs rescued by Humane Society International from South Korean dog meat farms.

Sophie Gamand is famous for her Pit Bull Flower Power Project that single-handedly transformed the image of much maligned pit bulls languishing in shelters across the U.S. When Humane Society International asked her to apply that same magic to help lift the fortunes of  dogs who are intensively bred on factory farms for human consumption in South Korea, she jumped at the chance to once again use photography to change lives. This time the beneficiaries are the more than one million dogs who HSI estimates are on dog meat farms in South Korea.

Gamand says: “Through this series I want people to see these dogs for the strong and beautiful beings that they are. I created handmade collars for these survivors because dog collars are a powerful symbol of love, commitment and care. Joining Humane Society International on one of its dog meat farm rescue missions opened my eyes to both the disturbing conditions in which these dogs live, and the resilience they constantly show.”

Humane Society International has been on the ground in South Korea since 2015, working in partnership with farmers eager to exit the controversial and dying business. Dogs are typically bred in row upon row of barren cages on dilapidated farms, bitterly cold in winter and stiflingly hot in Korea’s punishing summer. Dogs are denied proper food and water and often have only harsh metal wire mesh floor to sleep on, causing painful pressure sores. Like most people across Asia, the vast majority of South Koreans don’t eat dog meat, and many of the farmers with whom HSI works talk of family and societal pressure to get out of what is increasingly seen by Koreans as an unacceptable livelihood. HSI’s Models for Change program helps these farmers transition to more humane and sustainable livelihoods such as chili or water parsley growing.

The canine stars of Gamand’s portraits include Luna and Moon, who both now live in the Washington D.C. area and Ruby, who now resides in Las Vegas. Each dog is adorned with an intricate and glamorous collar created personally by Gamand to help rebrand these dogs, who are too often wrongly presented as soulless and vicious by the industry that exploits them, within South Korea.

One of the dogs featured is Birdie, a Jindo/Labrador mix who was rescued by HSI in 2018 and adopted by Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy. Another is Juliette, rescued by HSI in 2020 and subsequently adopted by The Wheel of Time actor Daniel Henney.

Henney says: “I’m immensely proud that my dog Juliette is one of the dog meat trade survivors featured in Sophie Gamand’s portrait project for Humane Society International. I hope to see an end, a complete end, to the dog meat trade in South Korea. I think it’s not a matter of if, but when it will happen.”

Golden retriever Chewbacca is also among the portraits, who now lives in Virginia with adopter and Humane Society International president Jeffrey Flocken, who says: “HSI’s campaign is focused on ending the dog meat industry in South Korea, the only country in the world that intensively farms dogs for consumption, and we’re making incredible progress. The real goal is to get a ban passed that will end this industry forever so that no more dogs have to suffer. And, on a personal note, this campaign means a lot to me because it brought me and my family Chewbacca, who was rescued from HSI’s fifteenth dog meat farm closure, and is now a beloved member of our family.”

A dog meat ban is currently being considered by an official task force initiated last year by the South Korean government after the then President Moon Jae-in suggested the time is right to consider a ban.

Newly elected President Yoon Seok-yeol, who has four dogs including Tori a rescued Jindo—a breed typically found on dog meat farms—confirmed his support for a ban on dog meat during the presidential election campaign, provided there is social consensus.

More information can be found at https://www.hsi.org/sophie-gamand-dog-meat-survivors/.

Download Photos

Media contact: Madeline Bove: mbove@humanesociety.org; 213-248-1548


Homeless man throwing birthday party for his dog goes viral and leads them to a better life


Choko Matos hugging his dog

For some people experiencing homelessness and isolation, their pet companions serve as their only hope. These animals give them a reason to smile and celebrate, as was the case for a man in Bucaramanga, Colombia, named Choko José Luis Matos.

Earlier this year, Choko was spotted by a bystander sitting on stairs at a local park with his four-legged companions, Shaggy and Nena.

At first, it looked like the trio was basking in the warm night air, but the party hats suggested this was a special day.Facebook

As it turns out, the friends were celebrating Shaggy’s birthday. Before revealing a small cake and candles, Choko gave the sleepy dogs some pets. Then, he started singing them a “Happy Birthday” while clapping his hands.

Choko Matos celebrating his dog's birthday

Choko lit the two candles on the cake while the two dogs observed him. After the flames were blown out, the homeless man gave each pup a kiss on the cheeks. He then grabbed a small plastic knife to cut the cake.Facebook

Choko cut a slice for each of his pets, placing the cake on paper plates before offering it to the animals. He also got his own plate and began to eat. While they ate, it seemed like Choko got emotional and started wiping tears from his eyes.

If you think about it, the party hats, plates, and candles probably cost Choko money that he could have used to buy food. But as a loving pet owner, he knew the dogs deserved a celebration.

Choko Matos celebrating his dog's birthday

Choko then watched the birthday boy finish up his cake before giving him a hug. The other dog got more kisses from his loving owner.Instagram

After he stopped filming, the person who captured the precious moment approached Choko to ask him about their lives and offer help. He found out that Choko had escaped an abusive home and had spent the last several years living on the streets.

Despite having no home and job, Choko made sure that Shaggy and Nena were always taken care of. After all, they were his only family, and he loved them with all of his heart.

The person who took the video shared the sweet scene online, inspiring people to donate food, supplies, and money to help Choko and his family get back on their feet.Instagram

Choko Matos and his dogs-4

The park where the party was held became a gathering place for other animal lovers. The man and his pups also became overnight celebrities as people had him posing with their own dogs for pictures.

That was only the beginning of the blessings that would come upon Choko’s life. Someone who heard his story gifted him a new phone, allowing him to start his own Instagram page, which now has over 186,000 followers.

On one Instagram live, he shared his story and stated that he was originally from the municipality of El Peñón. Talking about the viral video, Choko said that Shaggy was celebrating his 4th birthday that day, while Nena will be celebrating hers in November.Instagram

Choko also shared his dreams of pursuing music and building an animal shelter.

Choko Matos and his dogs-5

Looking at his Instagram, it appears that things are looking up for Choko, Shaggy, and Nena because they now have a place to stay and a better life. And the good man has already started giving back by creating and selling some shirts and donating a portion of the profits to help fight animal abuse.

“In so many years living on the street I was never alone. My dogs were always there to bring joy to many sad days and now together we are going to help many who need us!” he shared.

We’re so glad to hear that this trio is thriving and now helping others!

Click on the video below to see the precious moment between Choko and his dogs.👇


Twelfth Defendant Sentenced in Dog-Fighting, Drug Distribution Ring


The final defendant prosecuted as part of an extensive investigation into a dog-fighting and cocaine distribution network spanning three states was sentenced for his crimes in federal court today.

Shelley Johnson aka Gold Mouth, 40, of Macon, Georgia, was sentenced to 37 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $25,000 fine by U.S. District Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self III after he previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture. As a condition of his supervised release, Johnson is prohibited from owning or possessing dogs. There is no parole in the federal system.

According to court documents, law enforcement investigated a criminal organization involved in both cocaine distribution and organized dog fighting based out of Roberta, Georgia, which extended into North Georgia, Florida and Alabama from May 2019 until February 2020. In February2020, law enforcement executed 15 residential search warrants and seized more than 150 dogs that were being used for organized dog-fighting. A 136- count indictment was unsealed on Jan. 29, 2021, charging 11 individuals with various criminal activities. Three other individuals, including Johnson, were charged by criminal information.

During this time period, Johnson communicated with co-conspirator Jarvis Lockett about fighting and breeding dogs, dogs mauled and killed as a result of fighting, sharpening a dog’s teeth for fighting purposes, cash prizes for fights, and various topics detailing the business and the brutality of dog-fighting. Johnson attended a dog fight and participated as a handler inside the ring during the dog fight. Law enforcement executed a search warrant at Johnson’s Macon residence on Feb. 26, 2020, recovering 13 pit bull terrier type dogs with scarring consistent with dog-fighting. In addition, agents found evidence of dog fighting activities including a digital scale, weighted collars, heavy chains, ground stakes and a variety of medical supplies to treat animals for injuries sustained from dog fighting activities.

“Johnson participated in a brutal criminal enterprise that profited from the suffering of animals,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).“Dog-fighting is a crime, and also closely associated with other serious crimes. The sentences in this prosecution show those who engage in this cruel and inhumane practice face significant prison time.”

“The brutality of dog-fighting alone is sickening; but this case demonstrates the strong union that exists between this bloody and inhumane business and the world of illegal gun and drug trafficking,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary for the Middle District of Georgia. “Our office is committed to not only prosecuting dog-fighting participants, but working alongside our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we will root out the entire criminal network and hold them responsible for their crimes.”

“This investigation and prosecution should send a strong zero-tolerance message to those individuals involved in the inhumane torture of animals for entertainment,” said Special Agent in Charge Jason Williams, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG). “We appreciate the collaboration with our law enforcement partners in pursing these purveyors of death and senseless suffering.”

The following co-conspirators have been convicted and sentenced in this case:

Lekey Davis, aka Kee Boo, 46, of Talbotton, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 210 months of imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base;

Christopher Raines, aka Binky, 51, of Talbotton, was sentenced to serve 135 months of imprisonment to be followed by five years of supervised release and pay a $10,000 fine after pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base;

Jarvis Lockett, aka J-Rock, 41, of Warner Robins, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 10 years of imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture and cocaine distribution;

Derrick Owens, aka Doomie, 38, of Woodland, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 10 years of imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine;

Jason Carter, 39, of Phoenix City, Alabama, was sentenced to serve 97 months of imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine;

Vernon Vegas, 50, of Suwanee, Georgia, was sentenced to serve the maximum five years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and pay a $10,000 fine after pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture;

Shaquille Bentley, 27, of Roberta, Georgia, was sentenced to serve four years of imprisonment after pleading guilty to use of a communication facility;

Rodrick Walton, aka Rodrie Walton, 42, of Shiloh, Georgia, was sentenced to serve two years of imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture;

Reginald Crimes, 39, of Preston, Georgia, was sentenced to serve two years of imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture;

Lee Benney, 55, of Reynolds, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 21 months of imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture; and,

Bryanna Holmes, 25, of Fort Valley, Georgia, was sentenced to serve three years of probation after pleading guilty to use of a communication facility.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Keyes for the Middle District of Georgia and Trial Attorney Banu Rangarajan of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section prosecuted the case.

The case was investigated by ENRD, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), USDA-OIG, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, the Merriweather County Sheriff’s Office, the Peach County Sheriff’s Office, the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office, the Webster County Sheriff’s Office, the Byron Police Department and the Fort Valley Police Department.


Donations Needed

A couple woke up to find a dog snuggled in bed with them and it was not theirs

Julie Thornton Johnson and Jimmy Johnson


In the early morning of May 1, a southeastern Tennessee couple named Julie Thornton Johnson and Jimmy Johnson woke up to find a fluffy intruder sleeping in bed with them.

Julie got up around 4:00 a.m. and noticed a dog was in their bed, but she didn’t think anything of it because their three hounds—Jupiter, Hollis, and Zeppelin—like sleeping on the bed. So, she went back to sleep.

But as the light shone through their window at around 6:30 a.m., Jimmy woke up to a start.

“Julie, whose dog is this?” he asked in a quiet but stern voice.

Julie rolled over and looked at her husband—both of them having just realized that the red nose pitbull-labrador mix sandwiched between them wasn’t theirs.

Julie Johnson and Nala on the bed


Initially, Julie feared someone else had broken into the house, but she soon realized that the pup was just looking for refuge.

“We knew that she was of absolute no harm to us or our dogs,” she said. “She was just looking for a safe place. So, it totally turned into a comical, ‘Let’s take some photos with Nala.’”

The couple snapped a couple of photos of their hilarious situation, and Julie shared the story on Facebook.

“This is the weirdest post I have ever had to make,” she wrote in the caption. “Is this your dog?”

Nala the dog on the Johnsons' bed


The pup wasn’t wearing a collar, so the Johnsons didn’t know her name. But within an hour of posting, Julie received a message from someone who claimed Nala was their dog.

Wanting to make sure it was the right person, Julie asked if she could prove she was the owner. The woman then sent Christmas and Easter pictures and plenty of photos with Nala.

Nala’s owners, Felecia Johnson and Cris Hawkins, said that the dog had slipped out of her collar the night before while Felecia’s dad took her for a walk.

Nala ran into the woods, and he tried to get her, but the dog decided to play a game of tag. Later that night, the pup returned home but refused to come back inside, so Felecia and Cris decided to wait until the morning, thinking she would stay close.

Felecia Johnson and Nala


But as it turns out, Nala went on an adventure of her own.

How she snuck into the couple’s home still remains unclear, but Julie suspects that Nala might have just pushed a door open while looking for a place to stay during the thunderstorm that night. Jimmy had taken their three dogs outside before bed, and she thinks the front door was left slightly ajar.

Felecia came to pick up Nala, but it took a while before the dog was convinced to go home.

Jimmy Johnson, Julie Johnson, Felecia Johnson, and Cris Hawkins with their dogs


“She’s almost as big as I am, but since she’s been a puppy, I carry her on my hip like she’s a little kid,” she said. “And now that she’s grown, she’s still expects me to do that. It’s a lot harder now, but I had to carry this big dog out of (Julie and Jimmy’s) house. If it wasn’t crazy enough. … I had to carry her out like a child.”

A few days after Nala’s impromptu sleepover, the families went on a fun puppy play date in Julie and Jimmy’s yard with all four dogs, who enjoyed some vanilla ice cream and treats.

“The four of us could not even believe the attention this story has gotten and how one dog has brought the four of us together,” Julie said. “The eight of us, actually — four humans and four dogs — into, I hope, a friendship.”

Check out the video below from CBS News for more on this adorable story.


“The climbers were shocked to see who was approaching them at an altitude of 5500 m!”

‘We had too much to do to be scared’: the couple who fled Irpin with 19 dogs


Daniel Boffey

The image of a windswept young woman holding tight to the leads of nine dogs under an ominously dark sky spread far and wide at the time of the Battle of Kyiv.

The apparent bravery of the woman, who was attempting an audacious evacuation across a broken bridge targeted by Russian fire, and the vulnerability of the animals, some of whom were strapped into dog wheelchairs, epitomised to many the cruelty of the war being waged by Vladimir Putin and the dignity of the Ukrainian response.

The full story of the trials of Anastasiya Tykha, 20, a veterinary student in the final year of her degree, and her husband Arthur Lee, 26, is perhaps even more striking than the photograph, which the couple discovered had gone viral when Tykha saw herself on the television news and listened to the presenter report that she was dead.

Anastasiya Tykha and her dogs attempting to travel from Irpin to Kyiv under Russian fire in March.

Anastasiya Tykha and some of her dogs attempting to travel from Irpin to Kyiv under Russian fire in March. Photograph: Handout

Speaking in Irpin, the town 13 miles north of Kyiv from where the couple had fled on 9 March, Tykha said they ended up making seven crossings of the bridge in total, each one under fire.

“We had too much to do to be worried or scared”, said Tykha, who has run an animal shelter in Irpin for four years, and who on that first journey was seeking to escape with 19 dogs, five cats, a turtle, a chameleon, two Triton lizards, an axolotl and a hamster.

It was not an easy decision to flee, but the Russians had wrestled control of the town, there was no electricity or running water and the dogs were having to drink from the shelter’s aquarium.

It was Snizhana Bugryk, 35, a friend who was involved in finding abandoned and disabled animals for Tykha and Lee’s shelter, who persuaded the couple that they had no choice but to leave.

“Snizhana said we had to go or we would be killed, that this was our last chance for us and the animals to survive,” said Tykha. “And she was right”, added Lee. “Our house was later in the heart of the heavy fighting.”

It was a two-mile walk to the bridge where Ukrainian soldiers were helping people across.

Aerial view of Irpin, destroyed by Russian bombs

An aerial view of the town of Irpin, 13 miles north of Kyiv, which has suffered heavy Russian bombardment. Photograph: Google Earth

Two of the dogs – Strong and Baileys, mongrel border collies with broken spines – were in wheelchairs, while Life, a four-year-old with amputated legs, had refused to be strapped in and was dragging herself on her stumps. “I did think at one point that we would not make it,” said Lee, “but Snizhana called and said there would be a minibus on the other side to help”.

It took three hours to get to the bridge. One dog, Pandora, a one-and-a-half-year-old mongrel Belgian shepherd, was so terrified that he bit off part of his tongue, while four of the others, including the couple’s own dog, Zeus, a beagle, became so worked up by the sounds of war they chewed through their leads and ran away.

Arriving exhausted at the Ukrainian checkpoint by the bridge, the couple and their animals drew the attention of press photographers, who crowded around them.

“That was when that photo was taken – I just wanted them to let us get through to the bridge,” said Tykha. “I was worried because there were burned out cars and lots of smashed glass and metal, and I didn’t want the animals to be cut up.”

A group of Ukrainian soldiers came to their aid, ushering the photographers away. “There were explosions and shooting but after two weeks of Russian occupation, we were used to it,” Lee said.

The couple found the minivan and it took them to a south-western district of Kyiv, where a sauna on the side of a house had been made available to them and their animals to stay in.

It was the next day that the couple discovered that their adventures were being talked about across Ukraine, and that Tykha was presumed dead.

They were determined to go back to find Zeus and the other dogs who had fled in fear.

“We were in the sauna for five days, but every one of those days Anastasiya went to the Ukrainian military checkpoint and demanded that she be allowed through to get the escaped dogs,” said Lee. Every day the commander at the checkpoint refused, and every day she came back. He was finally browbeaten into submission.

Anastasiya Tikha with one of her dogs in her garden.

Anastasiya and Arthur have returned to Irpin, where they now care for 30 dogs and 10 cats. Photograph: Ed Ram/The Guardian

After crossing the bridge, again under fire, they faced a three-mile walk to a an abandoned animal shelter, where they knew there were hungry dogs who needed help.

“It was a hard walk because we had all this heavy food,” said Lee. They returned to their own home, where they found Zeus, and picked up some neighbours’ dogs, including a German shepherd, bringing their party of animals for the return to five.

They would make two further trips, and all the dogs that fled on the first escape were accounted for.

Lee said their final trip back to Irpin, on 29 March, was the scariest. “The council had said that the Russians had gone the previous day and that it was safe – but it wasn’t,” Lee said. “The bombs were landing just 2 metres from us. We hid between the minivan and a fence, but it was close.”

Now they are back in Irpin in a new, rented house. Because so many former residents have left, their collection of sheltered animals has grown to 30 dogs and 10 cats. They are, the couple say, just happy to be living the life they love.

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