The AtlanticThe Atlantic

All Creatures Great and Small

By George Packer

03 Apr 2022 · 3 min read

It’s striking how many stories and pictures from the war in Ukraine involve animals. One of the first Ukrainian civilian victims was a woman killed by Russian shelling as she tried to bring shelter dogs to safety near Kyiv. During the evacuation of the city, railway platforms and trains were crowded with pets of all kinds. A woman carried her infirm German shepherd a dozen miles on foot to cross the Polish border. A Ukrainian soldier took time to bandage the head injuries of a stray dog wounded by shelling. Every Ukrainian platoon seems to have a pet dog, some of them actually serving in the military. A man risked his life to rescue a vanload of kangaroos from the Kharkiv zoo; then he returned for the tapirs. A girl in the back seat of a passenger car was shot by Russian troops because the pet carrier in her lap, with her wounded cat inside, kept her from bending over when her mother yelled “Get down!” (The girl, her mother, and their cat survived; the fate of the volunteer driver is unknown.) An old woman remained in a war-torn town to care for the cats left behind by neighbors who had escaped.

Some Ukrainians seem to grieve their lost pets almost as deeply as their lost parents, children, husbands, wives. “Rest in peace, my beautiful angel,” a Ukrainian journalist tweeted when she learned that the shar-pei she’d had to leave behind when she fled her home subsequently died. “They will pay for making your last few weeks hell.”

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