Christ Yoder Wed, 23 Nov 2022 15:10:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Christ Yoder 32 32 Lincoln plumber’s widow and vet clinic agree to $3 million settlement for wrongful death lawsuit Wed, 23 Nov 2022 14:00:00 +0000

A Lincoln veterinary clinic and its owner have agreed to pay $3 million to settle a wrongful death case filed by the widow of a man killed after being crushed in a partial ceiling collapse in 2019.

In the 2020 lawsuit filed in Lancaster County District Court, Ryan Kizzier’s widow, Dana Kizzier, alleged that the Nebraska Animal Medical Center at 56th Street and Old Cheney Road and the negligence of Forney Properties LLC led to Kizzier’s death six days later.

He was the 40-year-old father of two young boys.

The lawsuit alleged that prior to July 15, 2019, the clinic dangerously used and overloaded the area above the ceiling of its first-floor dog kennels with heavy shelving and storage.

After a water main broke and the ceiling began to sag, staff were able to stop the flow of water. Kizzier’s attorney, Eric Brown, said Nebraska Animal Medical Center and Forney Properties were told structural changes to the first floor kennels were needed to safely repair the pipe and did not make the changes. nor contacted a structural engineer about it.

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Instead, he said, they contacted Ryan Kizzier, owner of Lincoln Plumbing, to fix it and restore water to the kennels.

When Kizzier arrived and began working on the pipe, the first floor ceiling collapsed on top of him.

Rescue teams were able to free him using airbags, but Kizzier later died in a hospital.

In its response to the lawsuit, NAMC denied any knowledge of pre-existing structural issues and said only Kizzier made the decision to review the ceiling, “which suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed through no fault of the defendants. “.

But Brown said he subpoenaed documents and learned that another local contractor had maintained the kennel area two months before the collapse and said it appeared structurally unsound. The plumber reportedly expressed concerns “about whether it was safe for employees and dogs to use this area”.

After the collapse, NAMC was sold. Although manager Adam Forney is still working on it.

The parties reached an agreement during mediation in October. Earlier this month, the Lancaster County Court approved the settlement as required by law and guardianships have been put in place for the surviving minor children of Kizzier.

According to court records, one-third of the settlement will go toward attorney fees, and Dana Kizzier and her sons will receive the remainder, $1,984,000.

Brown said the attorneys are relieved for the family, “as this will allow them to continue to heal and hopefully provide some measure of closure.”

He called Ryan Kizzier’s death tragic and completely preventable.

“A woman lost a husband and two boys senselessly lost their fathers because a company was more concerned with reopening its water to start using the kennels again for profit than the safety of the people working in this area, including their own. employees. There was no excuse,” the attorney said.

Attorney Dan Ketcham, who represents NAMC and Forney Properties, did not respond to a request for comment.

We are always interested in hearing news from our community. Let us know what happens!

Director of Maricopa County animal shelter on leave over toxic environment allegations Wed, 23 Nov 2022 00:02:00 +0000

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -The Arizona family has learned that the director of the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control Shelter is on leave. Although the county won’t say exactly why former employees say there is a toxic work environment.

A former worker tells us that she created a petition calling for housing reform which now has nearly 25,000 signatures. She says the toxic work environment at the shelter leads to high turnover, which creates inadequate animal care. “It’s been a toxic work environment for many years, including when I volunteered there,” said Lorena Bader, a former volunteer.

Maricopa County has placed Animal Care and Control Center Director Michael Mendel on administrative leave.

“Everyone is very scared to speak up,” says Bader, who claims she was fired without cause. Saying that the workplace at the shelter has a history of being toxic. “They won’t necessarily fire you for that. [speaking up]but they will target you.

Mendel became manager in March this year, appointed to the post by Deputy County Manager Valerie Beckett.

“I don’t know. It was chaos. It was chaos. It was the worst experience of my life,” said Molly Judd, who stepped down earlier this year as director of East Shelter. She says Beckett oversees many departments in the county and is the root problem. “She thinks it’s like any other government organization. You just put in a few figureheads and the rest will follow. But it’s not it’s pet boarding. You really need to know what you’re doing to run this place,” Judd said.

Judd says she was bullied at work by Mendell and Beckett who pushed her over the edge. “I needed to quit for my mental health. They made me wonder who I was as a person,” Judd added.

She says she hopes the county makes serious and quick changes. “They don’t have leaders who are animal advocates and understand animal welfare. And until that changes, nothing will change,” Judd said.

We have contacted the shelter to comment on these allegations. They said in part: “Mendel is on leave and out of the office. At this time, a return date is unknown.

American Rescue League Boston joins MAF for special sterilization clinic in Fall River; highlights the need – Fall River Reporter Tue, 22 Nov 2022 15:08:27 +0000

On Tuesday, the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Spay Waggin’ was in Fall River at the Fall River Fire Museum at 1181 North Main Street to spay 30 animals as part of an ongoing collaborative effort with ARL, the Massachusetts Animal Fund (MAF) and Fall River Animal Control.

For four years, ARL hosted the clinic in conjunction with MAF and Fall River Animal Control. The surgeries are under the MAF voucher program, which distributes vouchers to eligible low-income pet owners to cover the cost of the important procedure.

Due to high demand, many customers have been on a waiting list for several months to have their pets neutered, and ARL is pleased to once again provide this vital service that the Fall River community sorely needs.

“Fall River is already a struggling community, but since the pandemic, it seems getting spay services has proven even more difficult,” said Cynthia Berard-Cadima, Fall River animal control manager. “People contact us daily asking for funds. Many are out of work and our homeless community is growing. We stretch every penny and our veterinarians give more of their time and services than ever before. »

Customers began arriving with their pets around 8:30 a.m. and will pick up their pets in the afternoon after surgery and recovery time.

Clinics like this that provide subsidized neutering and spaying services are the core of MAF, which is funded primarily through the voluntary tax levy (line 33f) on the income tax form of Massachusetts residents. Since 2014, the MAF voucher program has helped provide neutering and neutering services to over 17,500 animals.

Chattanooga’s Naughty Cat Cafe diverts more than 1,000 cats from shelters to homes Mon, 21 Nov 2022 01:10:00 +0000

The Naughty Cat Cafe in Chattanooga recently reached a major milestone: its 1,000th adoption.

Heath Hanson and Whitney Sickels mortgaged their home to launch Naughty Cat, Chattanooga’s first and only cat cafe, in 2019.

“The only reason we started this is because when we moved to Hamilton County they were euthanizing healthy, adoptable adult animals, and we were blown away that this concept didn’t exist in a community. so touristy and love animals so much,” Hanson said in an interview.

The café serves as a foster home and adoption platform for up to 40 cats at a time. All of the cats there have been abused, neglected, hoarded, in a shelter for over a year or adopted and returned to the shelter multiple times.

“It’s basically the shelter animals that weren’t thriving there,” Hanson said, adding that the cats stay at the cafe for an average of two weeks before being adopted.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga animal shelters hope to increase adoptions with reduced, waived fees)

The cafe adopted all of the Humane Educational Society cats 47 times in the cafe’s first year, he said.

Hanson and Sickels have no employees or volunteers, and they don’t get paid for the work they do at the cafe.

Hamilton County health regulations limit coffee offerings to self-serve coffee and tea, prepackaged baked goods, and bottled and canned beverages.

The sale of these products does not generate any revenue, so the only revenue from the cafe comes from the $15 per person entrance fee, which includes a soft drink, and the markup from the logo merchandise, said Hanson. The entry fee pays for the care of the cats.

The health department allows the cafe to admit up to 52 people at a time, but Hanson and Sickels choose to limit the number of people in the cat lounge to 15 at a time. This keeps cats and people from getting overwhelmed, he said.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga Area Wildlife Rehabilitators Help Care for Animals in Need)

The cafe has two lounges with a variety of furniture for cats and people. There is also a closed area for shy cats. This area creates an intimate space for potential adopters to get to know these animals.

“Ironically enough, the shy are often adopted first,” Hanson said.

Despite the self-imposed human capacity limit, the cafe has the highest number of guests — about 40,000 a year — of all the roughly 300 cat cafes in the United States, he said.

Reservations are recommended on weekends, as it usually sells out every hour. When the cafe isn’t busy, people can stay as long as they want.

The cost to adopt a cat from the café is $100, all of which goes to the shelter the cat came from. Residents of the cafe come from the Humane Educational Society, the Pet Placement Center, and Scratch Inc.

(READ MORE: Arctic fox found at Soddy-Daisy shows why keeping wildlife as pets can be a problem)

With over 1,000 adoptions to date, the cafe has generated over $100,000 for shelters through adoptions that would not have generated money if the cats had been adopted from the shelters themselves. The idea is for the shelter to use the money generated from adoptions to vaccinate, spay, spay, neuter and microchip the next batch of cats the shelter sends to the cafe, Hanson said.

And cafe owners donate more to shelters than the money they receive from adoption fees. The Chattanooga Police Department was involved in a recent stunt in which the cafe’s ‘mean cat’ mascot was ‘arrested’, and the cafe used its huge social network to raise $4,000 in ‘bail’ which were donated to their partner shelters, Hanson said.

Hanson and Sickels aren’t just cat lovers who started a business on a whim. Sickels previously ran an animal shelter in Hawaii, so she has experience supervising the care of dozens of animals.

Of more than 1,000 cats adopted out of the cafe, the number that was returned is in the single digits, and those cats were all returned for unpredictable reasons, Hanson said.

Hanson and Sickels check what adopters put in their paperwork, call out their character references, and check their social media accounts to make sure the cats are going to good homes.

“We’re not trying to fail these cats,” Hanson said. “Unfortunately, the shelter does not have the resources or the time to do this thorough check.”

Not everyone comes to the café to adopt, but the entrance fee they pay is reinvested into the establishment, and the time and attention they give to the cats makes them more socialized and adoptable for future ones. locals who come to use the cafe as a platform for adoption, he says.

The owners didn’t open a cat cafe to make a profit, Hanson said. They wanted to do something they love and create a self-sustaining adoption platform, and they just signed a 15-year lease.

Virindra Mosaphir said he and his brother-in-law, Mario Nalini, walked past the Naughty Cat Cafe several times before deciding to enter on Thursday.

“I love how they’re so cool with everyone; they’re not aloof,” Nalini said of the cats. “They’re used to human contact. That’s good.” He’s an actor who was passing through Chattanooga from Nashville on his way to Memphis. Mosaphir lives on Raccoon Mountain.

“I think it’s really, really cool,” Nalini said, pointing to openings in the wall painted to look like mailboxes, which cats pass through to access litter boxes in the room on the other side. “It’s a good idea.”

The coffee is surprisingly odorless, considering how many cats live and produce litter in the same place.

“The way he stands is like a statue,” Mosaphir said of a tuxedo cat perched on a pedestal, then turned and pointed to an approaching gray tabby cat on the floor . “This one, he likes to play. He likes to explore everything.”

Contact Emily Crisman at or 423-757-6508. Follow her on Twitter @emcrisman.

If you are going to:

Where: 3742 Tennessee Avenue, Suite 100

Phone: 423-541-4316

Cost: $15 per person, non-alcoholic drinks included.

Restrictions: Open to ages 11 and up. 11-13 year olds must be accompanied by an adult.


What foods can you give your dog for Thanksgiving? Fri, 18 Nov 2022 03:48:52 +0000

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — With Thanksgiving around the corner, you might be wondering what leftovers you can safely give your pup.

“Thanksgiving tends to coincide with an increase in vet visits due to dogs being fed unsafe human foods,” says the American Kennel Club (AKC).

The AKC, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and several veterinarians, including “The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats”, author by Dr. Gary Richter, MS, DVM, small animal and veterinarian exotic in Texas Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, and Chief Veterinarian of the American Kennel Club, emergency and critical care veterinarian, and valued member of the Chicago veterinary community for over 35 years, Dr. Jerry Klein, share some safe and dangerous items for your pet this holiday season.

Safe and healthy foods to feed your dog on Thanksgiving:

  • Sweet potatoes
    • “Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and beta-carotene,” says Dr. Richter. “Sweet potato treats can be as simple as one chew of dehydrated sweet potato.” Remember not to feed your pet sweet potatoes with added ingredients.
  • Potatoes
    • You can enjoy both types of potatoes, and your dog can have that option too. However, give only boiled or baked potatoes without butter, sour cream, salt or pepper, and serve sparingly.
  • Apples
    • “Apples are full of vitamins A and C and contain plenty of quality fiber, making them a healthy Thanksgiving treat for your pet,” says Dr. Richter. “However, if you share an apple with your dog, be sure to cut around the core, as large amounts of apple seeds can be toxic.”
  • Turkey meat (without bones or skin)
    • For those wondering if dogs can eat turkey on Thanksgiving, the answer is yes. The main course can be offered “as long as it has not been prepared with seasoning”, says Dr. Ochoa. In addition to avoiding bones, as noted above, Dr. Klein also advises owners not to feed the skin. The outer layer of poultry has likely been prepared with butter, spices, or other fatty ingredients that could cause pancreatitis or other problems for your dog.
  • Green beans
    • “With high amounts of plant fiber, manganese, and vitamins C and K, plain green beans are great for dogs,” says Dr. Richter. The key here, as with turkey, sweet potatoes, and the other options mentioned in this list, is that the bean dish should be plain, with no added ingredients like butter or spices.
  • Peas
    • Plain peas are a good choice, but cream peas should be avoided. Fattier foods like peas in cream can upset your dog’s stomach.
  • Pumpkin
  • Dessert
    • Dessert is an option, but not just any. Go ahead and satisfy your pet’s sweet tooth with something healthy like frozen yogurt (without artificial sweeteners like xylitol, which is toxic to dogs), suggests Dr. Richter. Calcium, protein and live bacteria that can act as probiotics will give your dog a tasty dose of nutrients and a sweet post-meal treat.

Dangerous and unhealthy foods to avoid feeding your dog(s) on Thanksgiving:

The AKC also wants to remind dog and pet owners to keep trash cans out of reach, as smells from the day’s meal can be tempting to furry friends.

If your dog gets into something he shouldn’t have, the AKC says to seek help immediately. You can call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 ($75 fee applies) or an area veterinarian who offers after-hours services.

IL Adoption Agency hopes to raise $125,000 before 100th anniversary Thu, 17 Nov 2022 18:48:00 +0000

Join The Cradle for Giving Tuesday at

EVANSTON, Ill., November 17, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Nonprofit supporters across the country will meet online at Tuesday, November 29, 2022, for Giving Tuesday, a national giving day after Cyber ​​Monday. The Cradle, a non-profit adoption agency serving Illinois and Indiana, will join the movement through their online donation site, Giving Tuesday takes place during Adoption Awareness Month (November). For The Cradle, this year’s giving season also precedes an incredible milestone: the nonprofit celebrates its centenary in 2023.

“It’s such a special time for The Cradle as we celebrate our first 100 years of impact and enter our second century of service,” said Jason Friedman, President and CEO of The Cradle. “Our growing community of supporters is a common thread connecting our rich heritage of adoption services and the new ways The Cradle aims to become even more valuable to children, families and the wider community.”

The Cradle hopes to raise $125,000 donation this Tuesday to support her ongoing efforts to build families through adoption, support families through life’s challenges, and strengthen communities through education.

“We look forward to celebrating our national network of families who have been touched by adoption,” said Rachel J. Solomon, Associate Director of Development at The Cradle. “We hope to receive donations from all 50 states.”

Solomon says matching donations will be available for The Cradle on Giving Tuesday with themed challenges throughout the day. Donors can double the impact of their donations during these challenges, with $27,000 available as matching funds for The Cradle. In a special 100e Birthday challenge, every $100 the donation made on Giving Tuesday will be matched dollar for dollar to celebrate the nonprofit’s upcoming centennial.


DONATE ONLINE: Visit The Cradle’s Giving Tuesday donation site at November 29 at

ABOUT THE CRADLE: The Cradle is a licensed non-profit adoption agency that provides adoption services, counseling and educational support. Since opening in 1923, The Cradle has facilitated over 16,000 domestic and international adoptions and has been at the forefront of open adoption, African American infant adoption, and LGBTQ+ placements. The Cradle is the only adoption agency in the country with an on-site crèche. Learn more about or call 847-475-5800.

SOURCE The Cradle Company

Nature’s Nursery Responds to Thousands of Mink Released in Ohio Wed, 16 Nov 2022 17:43:00 +0000 As many as 40,000 mink were released into the wild on Tuesday in an act of vandalism. Wildlife rescue cannot deal with them as the animals are domesticated.

WHITEHOUSE, Ohio — An animal rescue organization in northwest Ohio is warning of the dangers posed by thousands of mink still on the loose in Van Wert County after an act of vandalism.

Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation shared its thoughts on the bizarre situation on Tuesday evening. The center warns that this number of mink could cause immense damage to the area.

“[The release] could have devastating effects on wildlife populations in the region, not to mention farms and domestic animals,” a press release from the center said. . When you add this large amount of predators to an area, the whole balance of the ecosystem can be affected for many years.”

Multiple agencies are investigating a break-in that occurred Tuesday night at Lion Farms USA Mink Farm in Hoaglin Township. Somewhere between 25,000 and 40,000 mink were released from cages.

Many were shot by local residents or run over by vehicles, but around 10,000 were missing as of Tuesday night.

Chances of survival decrease as the weather continues to get colder.

“Farmed mink are not likely to have all of the inherent wild instincts necessary to survive,” the Nature’s Nursery statement said. “These animals are susceptible to malnutrition as the amount of prey is reduced due to competition among the large group. Also, with temperatures now dropping into the 20s and 30s at night, and the minks not having established dens, they will have no place to survive long term.”

Nature’s Nursery, located in Whitehouse, admits wildlife from an 18-county region, including the area where the minks were released. However, the organization is unable to take care of these animals.

“The mink that have been released are raised on the farm and considered domestic, not wild,” said executive director Allison Aey. “We only rehabilitate animals that can possibly be released back into the wild and those mink shouldn’t be in the wild.”

Mink are not an immediate danger to humans, but they do pose a risk to livestock owners and property managers. Poultry farmers are particularly at risk, as mink kill and consume chickens.

WTOL 11 spoke to a resident on Tuesday who said their friend’s chicken farm had been attacked.

The Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office also warns owners of ornamental ponds filled with koi and other fish, as minks also hunt fish.

How to Make Thanksgiving Special for Fresno Animals in Shelters – GV Wire Tue, 15 Nov 2022 19:06:44 +0000

Now is the time to give, and Fresno Humane Animal Services hopes residents will help animals in need of shelter, food and warmth.

For the month of November, the Murder Free Shelter is offering a deal on adoption fees and hosting a foster family event during the holidays.

The shelter is also seeking help with holiday meals for pets and blankets and warm towels for the city of Fresno and county shelters.

Sally Breyer, Senior Director of Operations for the City of Fresno Animal Center. says that since the opening of the municipal facility, they have struggled to let everyone know who they are and what they do.

“So we really hope to spread the word about this brand new wonderful facility for the city of Fresno and really invite people to come and pick up your lost pet, and if you don’t miss a pet and you would like add to your family, we have a lot of really amazing pets here that are looking for a forever home,” Breyer said.

The city shelter is located at 5277 E. Airways Blvd, near Fresno Yosemite International Airport. The county shelter is located at 1510 W. Dan Ronquillo Drive, west of Highway 99 and off Highway 180 in Fresno.

Help foster a pet for Thanksgiving weekend

Operation Wishbone Drive Thru will take place at the City Shelter on Tuesday, November 22 and Wednesday, November 23. The event asks residents to “sponsor” a pet for Thanksgiving weekend.

“We really hope people will come to the shelter to take in a dog or cat for just a few days so they can experience the vacation in a nice, warm home and get them out of the shelter for a bit,” Breyer said.

The process is simple, says Breyer. Foster families will receive everything they need to care for the animal over the weekend.

The City of Fresno Animal Shelter, located at 5277 E. Airways Blvd., is hosting an event where residents adopt a pet for Thanksgiving weekend. Operation Wishbone Drive Thru will take place on Tuesday November 22nd and Wednesday November 23rd. (GV Wire File)

Adopting a pet can help increase adoptions

Breyer says the temporary placement allows the shelter to get additional information about how animals behave in a home and what types of accommodations or services they need.

“Being around people really helps animals relax and helps them behave better when they return to the shelter,” Breyer said.

Families will be asked to complete a report card on how the animals interacted with the children in the home or with other dogs.

These comments allow the shelter to give information to potential adopters on why a particular pet might be suitable for them based on their behavior and characteristics.

“So it’s really beneficial and we’re still hoping that some of these foster families will turn into adoptions,” Breyer said. “But even if they don’t, it provides us with a good amount of knowledge that helps us place these animals better.”

Adoption offers in November

In addition, the shelter will host a special adoption for adult dogs.

Dogs six months and older can be adopted throughout November for a $25 fee, while adult black dogs can be adopted for free. Normally, a regular adoption costs $125.

Dogs adopted through the shelter will be fully vaccinated with parvo, rabies, and bordetella vaccines, including neutered, neutered, and microchipped.

Few pet products for Thanksgiving

The shelter also recently announced that it was running out of laundry products to help keep shelter animals warm.

Now that the temperatures have dropped, the shelter is asking residents to help keep animals warm this winter by donating old blankets, towels or sheets.

Drop-offs for any of these items are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at city and county shelters.

The shelter is also looking for donations of pet-friendly holiday meals, such as canned green beans, canned chicken and canned pumpkin.

“We like to make a little holiday meal for pets that don’t come home for Thanksgiving,” Breyer said. “And those items allow us to make sure everyone here gets a nice little treat and a little holiday meal that the staff provide.”

Dogs in danger 2022: Here are the 10 affectionate British dog breeds at risk of extinction in the UK – including the loving Skye Terrier 🐶 Tue, 15 Nov 2022 04:21:57 +0000

Many of us have welcomed new puppies into our families over the past two years as the Kennel Club has seen dog ownership skyrocket during the global pandemic.

But the growing popularity of imported breeds like the French Bull Dog means that some of the once well-established native breeds of the UK are on the verge of extinction on these coasts.

A total of 32 breeds are now “considered vulnerable” by the Kennel Club, after dropping below 300 annual registrations. including previously popular puppies like the King Charles Spaniel and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi.

Even the Skye Terrier, the breed famous for its loyalty and typified by Greyfriar’s Bobby of Edinburgh, is in danger.

Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko said: “We could lose even more of our most iconic and historic native dog breeds if people don’t look beyond the obvious choices and start exploring the huge diversity of races that we are fortunate to have in this country.

So if you want to help one of the UK’s struggling breeds, go with one of these instead of the usual Labrador Retriever or Springer Spaniel.

Here are the 10 dog breeds most at risk in the UK.

For all the latest dog news, photos, tips and information, join our Scotsdog Facebook group here

Velcro Dogs 2022: These are the 10 affectionate dog breeds likely to stick to their owner like glue – including the clingy Labrador

Ukrainian orphan who endured horrors of Mariupol siege finds new family Mon, 14 Nov 2022 05:43:00 +0000

Kyiv, Ukraine

When Russian forces invaded their country in late February, Vladimir Bespalov and Maria Bespalaya feared their dream of having a family through adoption was over.

“I remember very clearly that morning of February 24,” said Vladimir Bespalov, a 27-year-old railway worker, of the first day of the war. “We thought we were too late. We realized we were already in a state of war and we thought we couldn’t adopt anymore.

Instead, the situation prompted the couple to try to do it sooner, he said. “We were waiting to make more money, get a better car, buy a house and build something to give our kids first. But when the war started, we thought why not adopt a child now and do these things together as a family.

That day, the married couple, who lived in eastern Ukraine, posted a call on social media.

“We want to adopt any boy or girl, any newborn or child,” he said.

Weeks later, that message would reach a volunteer helping those fleeing Mariupol, a southern city that has become emblematic of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ruthless campaign to take Ukrainian land, come what may.

Residents were forced into hiding for weeks as Russian troops pounded the town with artillery. It is now a virtual wasteland, with nearly all buildings damaged or destroyed, and an unknown number of dead under the rubble.

Among the survivors was Ilya Kostushevich, 6, an orphan and alone. Both of his parents were killed in the first week of the war.

His mother was shot by Russian artillery after leaving home to find food for her family, Bespalov and Bespalaya were later to learn from the police.

Unaware of his wife’s fate, Ilya’s father went looking for her the next day, but was also killed by shelling from the Moscow army, police said.

Little Ilya told how he was left at a neighbour’s house, where he sheltered in a cold, dark basement with strangers for weeks.

He got so hungry he started eating his toys, Bespalaya said.

“The men were drinking alcohol and the children of these neighbors bullied him. He was starving and freezing,” Bespalaya told CNN in a low voice. She’s careful not to bring up Ilya’s traumatic experience in front of him uninvited, but he told the woman he now calls ‘mom’ all about his terrifying three weeks in the basement, she says .

Bespalov and Bespalaya are now Ilya’s legal guardians. They have been a little family for over six months and plan to officially adopt him as soon as possible. All adoption processes are currently suspended in Ukraine due to martial law.

Ilya, center, found new happiness with Vladimir Bespalov and Maria Bespalaya after losing both parents in the first week of the war.

The couple try to give Ilya as normal a life as possible in times of war.

Like all parents, the young couple are fiercely protective of Ilya, shielding him from the horrors of war as best they can and trying to give him a sense of security and stability.

“You try to distract yourself from the fights and immerse yourself in the time spent with your child. We try to create memories of a normal childhood. Work takes time, but we spend every free moment together,” said Bespalov, who as an essential railroad worker was not called up for military service.

But there is nothing normal about war. After posting their appeal on Instagram, the couple have set up two spare bedrooms for the possible arrival of a child – one a child’s room with a white crib and blue bedding, the other equipped with a bunk bed and lots of toys.

Bespalaya had worked in an orphanage for several years and felt up to the challenge of raising a child no matter what.

“I completely stopped being afraid of adoption. I was convinced that we would have a child, and I was convinced that I could take care of anyone and manage their character,” he said. she told CNN.

But this plan too was shattered by the war. Shortly after the start, the two men were forced to flee their home in Sloviansk, a city in the Donetsk region on the front line, for Kyiv.

“Our stability was gone. we both lost our jobs and our home. We lost all our savings, we lost absolutely everything,” Bespalaya said.

“But we won so much more.”

In April, they finally received the call they had been hoping for, from a Mariupol volunteer: there was a little boy without parents, could the couple take care of him?

The next morning they began the two-day road trip to Dnipro, where Ilya had taken refuge, to meet the boy who would become part of their family.

Maria Bespalaya, Ilya Kostushevich and Vladimir Bespalov sit together on a playground bench in Kyiv.

Once back in Kyiv, they went through a complex four-month process to become Ilya’s legal guardians, which involved talking to therapists, numerous doctor visits, police background checks and a search. government to ensure that the boy had no other living relatives. Various donors, including the Shakhtar Donetsk Football Club, helped provide financial support that enabled the family to find a comfortable home.

“Now we have this love, this love that makes you family. We didn’t have this baby, but our love is real,” Bespalaya said, with Ilya huddled between her and Bespalov on a field bench in game in Kyiv.

Despite their happiness as a new family unit, life is more difficult for Ilya in the evenings, when the capital suffers power outages caused by Russia’s sustained attacks on the power grid – leaving the family without electricity for hours. in a row.

“Sometimes he’s scared,” Bespalaya said. “He’s hysterical, and he’ll tell me it’s like being back in Mariupol, in the dark.”

But little Ilya learns to cope. As he played with the couple in a candlelit living room during one of the blackouts, he looked up and said, “I’m not afraid of the dark anymore. I know the light will come on again.