When Dr. Courtney Katsur first met Lenny, the stray dog wanted nothing to do with her.
Dr. Katsur didn’t know how long Lenny had been out on the streets of Ukraine, caught in the crosshairs of war. But she’d seen firsthand how the war had left so many dogs hungry and looking for food. By the time Lenny found his way to an animal shelter, he’d been injured and was starving.
“When I first got there, he was lying next to a heater,” Dr. Katsur told The Dodo. “He had surgery and did not move for two days and didn’t trust anybody.”
Just a few short weeks before Dr. Katsur met Lenny, she was watching the war unfold from her home in Virginia. But seeing videos and images of dogs roaming the streets inspired her to travel to Ukraine to help out.
Her heart broke for all the pet parents who had to leave their BFFs behind, and the dogs and cats who were stranded when animal shelters were destroyed.
So, she decided to take her veterinary skills straight to the front lines.
“It hit me that I can help, you know?” Dr. Katsur said. “I’ve never tried harder to get somewhere where people didn’t want to go.”
She worked alongside the UK-based grassroots organization Breaking The Chains to provide animals with food and medical care during her two-week trip. Dr. Katsur helped so many animals during her time in Ukraine, and they all deeply touched her. “I cried when I left them,” Dr. Katsur said.
But Lenny is one dog she’ll never forget because of how dramatically he changed right in front of her eyes.
As Dr. Katsur and the other volunteers began to take care of him at their shelter compound, they eventually earned his trust and watched as he warmed up to living with people.
“[He] jumped and laid in my suitcase,” Dr. Katsur said. “He would jump and lay on my cot to snuggle, when before he didn’t even want a human to touch him.”
Seeing Lenny become so loving and affectionate moved Dr. Katsur.
“He made such a transformation,” Dr. Katsur said. “It was amazing.”
In fact, Lenny has since become “the compound dog” because he loves living at the shelter, and everyone there loves him right back.
“By the end, Lenny owned the place,” Dr. Katsur said. “He was kind of the guy who was able to roam free within the compound.”
While Katsur is currently back in the U.S. raising money and organizing volunteers from afar, she plans to go back to Ukraine to help even more animals in September.
“Right now I feel like [we’ve accomplished], like, zero-point-one percent of what needs to be done,” Dr. Katsur said.
And thanks to Dr. Katsur and Breaking The Chains, there’s now a full-time Ukrainian vet at the compound to take care of Lenny and any other animals who need help.