It’s in times of great crisis when we see humanity coming through. I have been completely in awe of the devotion that Ukrainians show to their pets, even amid the constant bombardment of bombs. Alisa Tepituk, a 35-year-old Python programmer from Kyiv, is one such devoted Ukrainian. Her love for her 12-and-a-half-year-old German Shepherd, Puyla (bullet in English), has been taking the internet – and our hearts – by storm. 

Shortly after the Russians senselessly invaded Ukraine, Alisa packed up her family and pets in a small car and headed for Poland. Her sister, their two husbands, her mother, four children, and two dogs (including Puyla) could barely move in the cramped car as they drove 16 hours to another city in Ukraine. 

The next morning, they headed for Poland. “Near the border with Poland there were a lot of cars and we couldn’t stay in the car for the next three – or five – days, so we decided to walk the last 17km to the border,” Alina told the Guardian. She said that they had felt like sitting ducks while waiting in line. Unwilling to be open to attack, they decided to walk on foot.

Alisa carrying her dog, Puyla: Alisa Teptiuk/BelfastLive

They left at 4 in the morning and walked in minus seven-degree weather. “It was a hard trip around mountains and rivers. My kids were crying because of the cold. I wanted to cry too but I couldn’t give up … it was my idea to go to the border,” Alina said. 

But it wasn’t just hard for the humans. Poor Puyla struggled with walking. He kept on falling down and refusing to stand up. When she asked for help, Alina was told to leave her dogs. But any good dog owner would do what Alina did next – she refused to abandon the dogs. 

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[O]ur dogs are part of our family. My dog has experienced all the happy and sad moments with us. Mum’s dog is all she has left of her former life. So my husband, at times, carried our dog on his shoulders,” Alina explained. They carried Puyla 10 miles in the cold to bring it to safety. The whole time, Puyla was calm and didn’t struggle. 

Alina finally crossed the border with her family – including both dogs. Alina’s husband and her sister’s husband were forced to go back to Ukraine because of their age and mobilization order. 

Alisa and Pulya in Poland: Mirror.co.uk

We stayed in a tent for about seven hours. We were all in there, dogs and five children, all with wet feet. It was hard physically and psychologically,” Alina said. “But when we took our first steps into Poland, when we showed our passes, it was then I realized that we would be OK, that we were in a safe place.” 

Now, Alisa and her dogs are safe in Warsaw, where Pulya is a comfort to Alisa, calming her when she worries for her husband, city, and country. “Today she is alive and doing well, she stands as a symbol of love, devotion, determination, she represents our family, the lives we had, the lives we’ve left behind. Pulya is our one constant in all of this madness,” Alisa said, according to The Mirror

It’s just a reminder that our animals are there for us during troubling times, and we should be there for them as well! We’re rooting for Alisa, Puyla, and all the people and animals of Ukraine.

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