Rescued dog's journey from the Chernobyl testing site to a home in Grovetown

Published: Aug. 18, 2018 at 6:49 PM EDT
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Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018

(News 12 at 6 O'Clock)

GROVETOWN, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- An unlikely partnership between the Ukrainian government and international dog advocates leads to the rescue of hundreds of puppies near the Chernobyl nuclear testing site. 13 of those dogs have found homes across the United States, one of which is in Grovetown.

The dog, just under a year old, may look like your average, every day puppy. But if you ask its owner, she'll tell you his journey to a forever home is anything but normal.

With a wag of his tail and a smile across his face, Yuri chases tennis balls every day in the backyard of his new home. His owner, Meagan Mollohan, says he's either chewing toys, begging for treats or hanging out in his special corner near the dining room table.

Take one look at the shepherd mix's face and you would've thought he'd been raised at a local SPCA, not the site of one of the worst man-made disasters in human history. His owner says the conversation started when their older dog passed away, leaving their older German shepherd, Nikita, by herself.

"She was lonely and I could see it in her eyes," Mollohan says. "Whenever he had talked about adopting another puppy, I thought it would be great for my daughter to grow up with a puppy and also for my older dog to get her back to her old self."

Around the same time, Meagan's husband Timothy was heading to the site in Ukraine for a welding job.

"When he went over there, he said there were so many stray dogs everywhere," Mollohan says. "He would feed them every day and love on them and he just knew that he wished he could take one of those dogs home."

Many of the older dogs wouldn't get that chance after years spent around the nuclear site. But one day, he came across a young shepherd mix named Yuri.

"Over there, the trainer said he wouldn't come to a lot of people," Mollohan says. "Right when my husband got there, he ran right to him. And so, we just kind of knew that he was the one that we would be adopting."

Turns out, Yuri was one of 250 puppies the SPCAI and the Clean Futures Fund had cleared for testing and extraction from the site. Each dog went through a 45-day quarantine period to make sure each dog is not contaminated while also being tracked by scientists with radiation-tracking ear tags.

The SPCAI and Clean Futures Fund say the find the dogs with the lowest possible radiation levels to be rescued and sent out to adoption centers.

"They put them in confinement for a few months to make sure they do a bunch of testing to make sure they don't have any radiation on them or anything," Mollohan says. "They fix them, they give them all their shots and they're cleared to go."

13 of those dogs ended up in the United State, including Yuri. They're living happy and healthy lives, something Mollohan says she's happy to be a part of and provide.

"Whenever my husband said he was going to Ukraine, I was scared and it's just been a blessing to have a new dog. He's filled a hole in our hearts," Mollohan says. "I'm thankful for the people over there that are rescuing these dogs and helping them and feeding them."

Mollohan says some of her family members were concerned about any potential radiation issues, but the SPCAI and Clean Futures Fund says they only allowed dogs that were clear of radiation issues to be released to adoption centers across the world. She says they're hoping to rescue more puppies from the testing site later this year.