Chernobyl is the area in Russia where the nuclear plant melted down in the 1980s. The area is wholly contaminated, and almost nothing survived.
Julie McDowell was writing a story about some dogs she had heard about in Chernobyl. As she approached the site one of the animals approached her and her party. He came pounding towards the group “with brindle fur and yellow eyes.”
Igor, another person in the party, suddenly grabbed the snout of the dog and wrestled him to the ground. That was all before standing back up, grabbing a stick, and throwing it into the woods.
The dog ran into the woods after the stick and McDowell thought that was it. She was wrong. Tarzan came flying back out of the woods demanding another toss, as so many of our beloved fur babies are wont to do when it is playtime.
It turns out that this doggo is quite familiar to all of the locals within the group. He is one of the hundreds of dogs that populate Chernobyl. Somehow, they managed to survive against all the odds.
Not only that, these story surrounding these little guys is going to make your heart sing today.
AGAINST ALL THE ODDS
After the disaster in 1986, officials cleared Pripyat and the surrounding villages. Residents were ordered to leave their pets behind.
Harrowing reports at the time told of, “dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages.”
People left notes on their doors begging the guards not to kill their pets because, you see, that is what they did after the families were cleared out. Squads went from door to door and simply shot the animals in their homes.
Some of the furry warriors managed to survive that, the meltdown, and the aftermath and now they are all over the place around the disaster zone.
LIFE IS NOT EASY FOR THESE LITTLE GUYS
Tarzan and the rest of the estimated 300 doggos that populate the area are all pretty great. However, life isn’t easy for the little guys. They do have to survive the harsh Russian winters without any shelter. On top of that, they often carry increased levels of radiation, and their life expectancy is only about six years.
The news isn’t all bad, though. Nadezhda Starodub is a guide with the Chernobyl tour specialist Solo East, and she says that visitors to the area love the dogs.
“Most of the time people find them cute, but some think they might be contaminated and so avoid touching the dogs,” said Starodub.
Of course, visitors are advised to use caution when approaching the dogs and they are warned to treat them as they would any stray. I know, I wouldn’t be able to resist a belly rub or ten.
Starodub says she adores the dogs and loves to hang out with them as often as she can.
THE LOVE THAT THEY FOUND
Here’s where the story gets truly inspiring. While the dogs do get love, affection, play, and some food from visitors to the area, there is actually another organization that helps out.
Clean Futures Fund is a U.S. non-profit that helps areas that have been devastated by industrial accidents. They have set up three veterinary clinics that help take care of these brave doggos medical needs.
Isn’t that amazing?
The clinic treats emergencies, they give vaccinations, and they spay and neuter the dogs when they can.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get zero dogs in the exclusion zone but we want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them,” said Lucas Hixson, the fund’s co-founder.
On top of vet care, there are even little huts built around the area where the dogs can hunker down to stay warm on those frigid winter nights.
This story is a beautiful example of finding love where there shouldn’t be any. Chernobyl is a disaster area of epic proportions, and this shouldn’t be possible on any level. However, not only did these little guys manage to survive, there is now a circle of love and cooperation surrounding them that is beautiful to behold.