Natasha Hrytsenko, a lifelong resident of Ukraine, had always dreamed of having a fluffy white dog. When she started working, Ms. Hrytsenko, now 30, used her first two paychecks to buy a purebred mini Maltese puppy. She took Eddie home to the kyiv apartment she shared with her older sister.
Eight years later, when war engulfed their country and they decided to flee, Ms. Hrytsenko remembers telling her sister, “I can leave behind my best clothes, my favorite bags, and even my cell phone. But I will never leave Eddie behind.”
The couple headed to Poland, then Germany, then Portugal, finally bound for the United States, where they had friends in Virginia. The little dog traveled with them, hidden under his arms or flopping into his lap.
The sisters made it as far as Tijuana, the Mexican city on California’s southern border, before hearing the news that stopped them in their tracks: In most cases, dogs from Ukraine were not allowed into the United States. Several people had already had to leave their pets in Mexico under federal health regulations.
“I would rather go back to Europe,” Ms. Hrytsenko told her sister.
Among the thousands of Ukrainians who have been lining up at the southern border since the Russian invasion, the last few weeks have been marked by a painful progression of loss: homes, loved ones, jobs, the quiet comfort of familiar neighborhoods. For those who managed to take a beloved pet with them on their journey into an uncertain future, the barrier at the border proved devastating.
“He is everything to us,” Mrs Hrytsenko’s sister, Ira, 31, said of the dog.
“The number of dogs here has increased day by day,” said Victoria Pindrik, a volunteer with the Save Ukraine Relief Fund, who has been working with Ukrainian refugees trying to enter the United States. “Dogs have been returned to us.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prohibits dogs from entering the United States if they have been in any of approximately 50 “high risk” countries in the last six months.
At the busy Tijuana border crossing, where a dedicated pedestrian lane was opened to quickly process Ukrainian refugees, Customs and Border Protection agents initially allowed several pets into the country, volunteers working at the border said. But more recently, pets from Ukraine are not allowed.
The Hrytsenko sisters took steps as soon as they left Ukraine to make sure their dog was prepared for international travel.
Volunteer vets gave Eddie his first rabies shot in Poland and his second in Germany, where the vets also inoculated him against parasites, implanted a microchip in his neck, and provided him with paperwork and an international ID to make sure that I could travel.
The sisters planned to travel to the United States through Mexico, a round trip that thousands of refugees have attempted due to delays in establishing a legal conduit for Ukrainians to enter the United States. Mexico does not require visas, so refugees have been able to fly to Mexico and apply for humanitarian admission at the US land border.
The sisters boarded a flight from Lisbon to Mexico without a hitch, their suitcases full of cans of Newman’s Own organic chicken dog food. Eddie arrived in a small portable luggage rack.
After landing in Cancun last week, an animal inspector at the airport checked his paperwork and examined Eddie from head to toe. He delivered an official document with a stamp that certifies the good health of the dog. The sisters flew to Tijuana on Sunday.
There they joined hundreds of Ukrainians waiting their turn to cross the border. Before long, Eddie was bouncing happily on the mats that lined a large gym that had been converted into a huge refugee dormitory.
“We felt confident, confident that everything was okay,” Ira recalled. “Then all of a sudden we heard you can’t cross with your dog.”
After his journey of more than 6,000 miles, across four international borders, this barrier seemed the most formidable. They considered reversing their steps.
The temporary suspension of the admission of animals from rabies “high risk” countries was posted on the CDC’s website in July, and the agency said in a statement Thursday that the regulation remained in place. He said he had issued a series of dog permits for people arriving from Ukraine with their pets. “We are working with NGOs in Mexico and the US along the border to ensure that people arriving from Ukraine with their dogs meet the entry requirements before entering the US, or have a place safe to quarantine dogs if they arrive and do not meet CDC entry requirements. requirements,” the agency said.