Two men who brought aid to dozens of dogs trapped in Ukraine while narrowly avoiding being hit by missiles are about to do it all over again.
Andy Cullen and his friend Darren Bracken from Cullahill on the Laois/Kilkenny border who run the Husky Rescue Ireland were the first known Irish animal charity to travel out to the war torn country with animal supplies in March - a return journey of more than 5,000kms across land and sea in a van.
Not only did they bring the aid, they also managed to bring as many dogs as they could to safety across the Ukrainian border into Poland.
The two friends are heading off on their second mission on Thursday and have a guided time plan of helping out of two weeks. They are so committed to helping the animals that they plan to go back into Ukraine to rescue more of them.
The pair are set to disembark despite the risk of being injured or even killed, which has not entered their minds.
'Prepared to go into some of the danger zones'
Speaking from his home in Co Laois Mr Cullen, a 45-year-old grandfather-of-two, said both of them realise that they “were lucky to get out of Ukraine the last time without too many scary moments. This time it will be tougher and riskier, but our families have given us their full support to go out there again.
“We can’t just sit back and do nothing. I know we managed to do a lot the last time we were there, by driving over and back along the border with Poland three times instead of the planned one trip, but we left a lot of unfinished work behind, and we just need to complete it.
“In other words, save the lives of as many dogs as we can,” he explained.
“We couldn’t just walk away from all the help that was needed and that’s why we are prepared to go into some of the danger zones again.
“It was definitely hard to come back home the last time and leave the dogs and of course people there. It was just devastating. What we saw was a complete eye opener to say the least.
“Lviv airport was bombed which was five kilometres from us while we were at one of the dog shelters trying to bring supplies and rescue the dogs - so that was terrifying.
“That was reality hitting us like a ton of bricks, and we had a very close shave to be honest. But we couldn’t not go in there we had to.
“A military base in Mykolaiv was also bombed two hours after we had driven by and on our way back it was a horror scene in March. Thirty-five people lost their lives there.
“It was so hard seeing the families waiting to cross the border with only the clothes on their backs with an unsure future ahead of them and old people carrying shopping bags of clothes.”
The donations of animal food, blankets and other veterinary supplies along with thousands of euros in financial help on their first trip “was phenomenal” explained Mr Cullen but this time they are finding it more difficult to secure public aid.
“We don’t know what is causing the drop-off in public donations, maybe it’s because people are war weary or due to the cost of living spiralling, but we really are appealing to the public to give what they can to help out these animals who are in need of rescuing,” added Mr Cullen.
More than €8,000 was raised for their first trip with €3,000 remaining which will be used for supplies for the journey on Thursday.
Donations can be made or dropped-off in Dublin at 12 Church Street East, East Wall, Dublin 3, at Fleetwood Decorating Centre, Unit 101, St. Patricks Woollen Mills, Douglas, Co Cork, Husky Rescue Ireland, Coolnacrita, Cullahill, Rathdowney, Co Laois and in Co Waterford at the entrance to the Aldi Car Park in Dungarvan.