In the midst of one of the largest refugee evacuations in history – with nearly four million people fleeing Syria and another 7 million forced from their homes – families are being uprooted amid much chaos and unrest.
More still have been forcibly displaced from Afghanistan and several countries in Africa, and all are seeking asylum from the turbulence of their situations. Times of great crisis sometimes bring us to our breaking points, but they’ve yet to rob all humans of their compassion.
Though millions have only the hope of seeing their loved ones again someday, many prove that they will do anything not to lose those family members who depend solely on them. It is those who put their animals’ lives before their own whom we would like to celebrate here.
You may remember the young man named Aslan who fled from Damascus, Syria. He made headlines everywhere with his simple exclamation “I love my dog!” and his obvious dedication to his puppy. Aslan arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos with the Husky pup Rose, having walked over 300 miles with just a small bag and the pup in tow.
The two spoke with reporters briefly before setting right back off on their journey, leaving everyone with the hope that we might one day hear of their fate.
Another Syrian refugee refused to let his German Shepherd Silver leave his side—the two (shown below) are making the long trek to Hungary together.
An Afghan man, too, who landed in Lesvos toted few belongings, his dog, and his good spirits.
And this woman, Maya Narlband, carried her dog Poppy from Serbia into Hungary. She began the walk all the way from Syria with the pup, who can enter European Union countries at will with her very own passport.
Many dog owners we see only in passing, like Ahmad and his dog Teddy. Ahmad told reporters, “I couldn’t leave him behind, he’s my baby.” They were photographed in Greece in August.
And these two Syrian men, who told reporters they could never leave their dog Johnny behind.
Even the mixed breed below (also named Johnny) and his two humans made it quite far together, on foot. They were photographed inside a United Nations refugee center before continuing the dangerous walk to Germany.
According to the UN Refugee Agency Facebook page, the two said they carry Johnny in shifts in a baby carrier when he gets too tired to walk. They have continued this arrangement for over a month now.
Despite the uncertainty of the situation, there are many people looking to do whatever they can to help the refugees reach their destination, pets intact. Unfortunately, this is more difficult than it sounds.
There are often quarantine regulations for animals at country borders, and pets can be confiscated with no concrete reassurance that they will be reunited with their families. Even with the proper paperwork, people are being forcibly separated from their pets. The Abandoned Pets Foundation in the Netherlands is one organization offering help, especially on the part of Johnny and his family.
They promise to help the refugees find a foster for Johnny during his quarantine period, and president Karin Schulting personally ensures that the pup will be returned to his family wherever they end up. The issue, however, is finding them.
Dana Kennedy, a journalist in France who heard their story, told the Examiner:
That gorgeous dog is as much a refugee as anyone else. He and his guardians are a family like any other family. I bet this couple never imagined in their worst nightmares that they’d have to leave home and walk into this terrifying, unknown future. It’s up to us to rescue the dog – and his family.
Many of these devoted individuals are spotted as they complete one leg of their journey and begin another. We only hope we will one day know where their stories have taken them, and that the pets who have been separated from their families will find their way back. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to provide life-saving supplies and support for the refugees, please see the UN Refugee Agency’s donation page.