When Dr. Courtney Katsur first encountered Lenny, the stray dog refused to speak to her.
Dr. Katsur had no war how long Lenny had been on the streets of Ukraine, trapped in the crossfire. But she'd witnessed firsthand how the war had left so many dogs starving and in need of food. Lenny had been injured and was malnourished by the time he made his way to an animal shelter.
"When I initially arrived, he was laying near to a heater," Dr. Katsur said to The Dodo. "He had surgery, didn't move for two days, and didn't believe anyone."
Dr. Katsur had been monitoring the war from her home in Virginia only a few weeks before meeting Lenny. However, watching videos and photographs of canines roaming the streets moved her to come to Ukraine to assist.
Her heart went out to all the pet owners who had to leave their best friends behind, as well as the dogs and cats that were left behind when animal shelters were devastated.
So she chose to apply her veterinarian knowledge on the front lines.
"It occurred to me that I might assist, you know?" Dr. Katsur explained. "I've never worked harder to go somewhere where no one wanted to go."
During her two-week journey, she collaborated with the UK-based grassroots organization Breaking The Chains to offer food and medical treatment to animals. Dr. Katsur saved numerous animals during her stay in Ukraine, and they all had a profound impact on her. "I sobbed when I had to leave them," Dr. Katsur left.
Lenny, on the other hand, is a dog she'll never forget because of how radically he transformed right in front of her eyes.
Dr. Katsur and the other volunteers soon won his trust and observed as he warmed up to living with people as they began to care for him at their shelter compound.
"[He] jumped in my luggage," Dr. Katsur said. "He'd jump and lay on my cot to snuggle, even though he didn't want a person to touch him previously."
Dr. Katsur was affected by seeing Lenny become so kind and affectionate.
"He went through such a shift," Dr. Katsur stated. "It was incredible."
In fact, Lenny has since earned the nickname "the compound dog" since he enjoys living at the shelter and everyone there adores him.
"By the end, Lenny had the apartment to himself," Dr. Katsur recalled. "He was the type of man who was allowed to walk around the compound."
While Katsur is presently back in the United States soliciting funds and recruiting volunteers from afar, she hopes to return to Ukraine in September to save even more animals.
"Right now, I feel like we've completed about 1% of what has to be done," Dr. Katsur remarked.
And, due to Dr. Katsur and Breaking The Chains, the compound now has a full-time Ukrainian vet to care for Lenny and any other animals in need.