The Russian invasion of Ukraine has upended countless lives, leaving thousands dead and millions displaced from their homes. It’s also had a big impact on local animals, many of whom have been stuck in the war-torn country and separated from their families.
But thankfully, there are also heroes willing to step up and save these animals, working hard and risking their own safety to get them out of Ukraine. That was the case for one American dog trainer who undertook a risky mission to get 35 dogs in Ukraine to safety.
Chris Jimenez is an Army veteran and the owner of the San Diego-based dog training company K-9 Connect. After the war broke out in Ukraine, he was told that 35 of his German Shepherds based in Kiev, being trained for work in military and law enforcement, were in serious danger.
“I was sitting at my house in San Diego. My friend sent me a message ‘We’re being bombed,'” Chris told CBS 8.
In response, he did something extraordinary to help these dogs: he flew into Ukraine to evacuate them to safety. It meant risking his own life by entering a war zone, but the vet knew it was the right thing to do.
“Every single step of the way, there was somebody telling me I’m not of sound mind,” he explained. “But at the end of the day, I ask these dogs to do amazing things for their K-9 handlers. They run through gunfire, they take on assailants, it seems right to return the favor.”
@partieswithwolves Made it to the babies. Now we escape #standwithukraine🇺🇦 #k9 ♬ Unstoppable – Sia
After arriving in Kiev, he found the German Shepherds in poor condition. They weren’t eating and showed no interest in coming out or playing. And Chris soon faced the daunting task of transporting the two dozen dogs back to the United States.
“The warzone aspect wasn’t the difficult part. It was the logistics of traveling with 35 German Shepherds,” Chris told CBS 8.
Chris documented his journey on TikTok, and videos show the struggles he and the dogs faced. With only a small van to transport the dogs in, he could only evacuate three at a time — all while under the threat of bombing as sirens blast in the background. “Daily reminder that innocent lives are being bombed every single day,” Chris wrote.
@partieswithwolves Daily reminder that innocent lives are being bombed every single day #siren #evacuate #shelling #standwithukraine #k9 ♬ original sound – k9connect
I need help. Guys this one man mission shit I tried isn’t cutting it. The logistics alone are a nightmare. I need an organization to help me. I can’t do this alone.♬ Love Is Gone (feat. Dylan Matthew) (Acoustic) – SLANDER, Dylan Matthew
After facing some setbacks, Chris and his team were able to transport the 35 dogs to the border and soon made it to Poland.
Chris said they lived in an abandoned animal shelter, and he committed to remaining in Poland “until every dog is home.”
@partieswithwolves The dangerous part is over! Now the difficult part begins 💪 #LizzosBigGrrrls #OscarsAtHome #AEMembersAlways ♬ original sound – coyote 🚗
Months pass, and despite all the struggles Chris kept his spirits up and bonded with the German Shepherds.
As the dogs were flown to California, the end of the mission was finally in sight.
@partieswithwolves 3 more doggos stateside! 🐕 #progress #babysteps #soon #wardogs #refugees #k9 #germanshepherd ♬ California Dreamin' – The Mamas & The Papas
Two days ago, Chris shared the most uplifting update yet, reporting that all 35 dogs had finally made it to San Diego.
He told CBS 8 that after arriving back in the states, he worked hard to build and install 35 kennels for all the refugee dogs.
You guys did it. You guys got everyone home. I’m proud to know my dogs have such an amazing support system behind them.♬ Night Changes – Elliot James Reay
Finally in the safety of the United States, the dogs are doing well, and will eventually be adopted out, most likely to the emergency service jobs for which they were trained.
“It’s a lengthy process because these dogs are so special, they just can’t easily be adopted out,” Chris said.
What an incredible mission. Thank you to Chris and everyone who helped him get these dogs all the way from Ukraine to the United States. We know it wasn’t easy but it saved these dogs’ lives.
Share this inspiring story and keep the people of Ukraine in your thoughts ❤️🇺🇦