CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Through photos and videos sent from the Romania-Ukraine border, there’s a glimpse into the emotional process refugees go through to get their pets to safety.
Today, a Castle Rock cafe wants to help fund a team’s efforts to ensure that pets can enter the European Union (EU).
Michelle Burleson has lived all over the world and attended high school with co-owner Heather Casey COFF33 at Castle Rock with his partner, Nate Ormond. Burleson has been on the Romanian-Ukrainian border for just under a month.
“I’ve always done Animal Rescue, but not in wartime,” Burleson said in a Zoom call Monday. “It’s so crazy how many people you meet in a day and how many different stories you hear in a day it feels like a day is 10 years.
Casey saw Burleson’s social media posts from the border and wanted to help his former classmate.
“We pay our baristas very well, almost double the average here in the Castle Rock area, and so we don’t tip,” Casey said. .”
For the month of April, tips collected will go to a GoFundMe hosted by Burleson, which says the money will be used for medicine, surgical supplies, beds, blankets, toys and cleaning supplies. The border team also provides temporary or permanent shelter, free veterinary care, transportation, as well as food and water, according to the fundraiser.
The cafe will match the amount of donations it receives at the end of the month.
“Every penny counts. Every social media share counts. It keeps families together and keeps little girls with their kittens when they’re brain scared,” Burleson said. “As ugly as everything Putin is doing, I kind of have a restored faith in humanity and the kindness of people and the generosity of people.
When Burleson spoke with Denver7, she hadn’t slept in three days. She spends her days ready to respond at any time to people crossing the border.
“People fled so fast, they were carrying their dogs and cats and guinea pigs in their arms or in plastic bags, or they had big dogs in crates, and it’s still very cold here. Dogs suffer from hypothermia. Cats suffer from hypothermia. Some people just left animals,” Burleson explained. “The look on people’s faces when they finally cross the border is both relief and terror.
Burleson said the team was mostly driven by adrenaline and worried about when the emotions would finally catch up.
“A girl told me, who came with her dog and her mother, that she had just seen so many dead animals in their crates. It’s just that people couldn’t carry them any further,” Burleson recalled. “There are a lot of injured animals coming.
When crossing the border with Romania and simultaneously with the EU, there are a variety of requirements for pets. Burleson said these include a European pet passport, certain vaccinations and records. Additionally, they can provide pet owners with things like crates and food for their pets, in addition to a place to stay. These services are free for refugees.
“What’s the one thing in the world you’re gonna grab when you think you’re gonna die?” Burleson asked. “In that moment of terror, the only thing that person grabbed was their dog or their cat. I think that says a lot.”
Recently, Burleson said he consumed nearly 1,000 pounds of dog and cat food in one day. European pet passports cost around 50 euros each.
“They just ran out of a house, they have none of that. So we had a huge problem with abandonment of animals at the airport or train station. So we take care of them,” Burleson said.
Burleson and the team try to rehome all the pets that have been abandoned.
As of now, the GoFundMe has reached $18,000 of the $21,000 target. COFF33 has donated just under $1,000 to previous charities and hopes to raise even more in April.
Click here if you want to help their mission to help pets of Ukrainian refugees in Romania.