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Airmen go to the dogs

TURDA, Romania – Staff Sgt. Rachel Lubovich, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron material readiness supervisor, greets dogs at an animal shelter Nov. 6. Sergeant Lubovich organized a project to help the shelter obtain supplies to expand the shelter and help get more dogs off the streets and into new homes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

TURDA, Romania – Staff Sgt. Rachel Lubovich, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron material readiness supervisor, greets dogs at an animal shelter Nov. 6. Sergeant Lubovich organized a project to help the shelter obtain supplies to expand the shelter and help get more dogs off the streets and into new homes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

TURDA, Romania – Airmen hold framework for a dog kennel as Staff Sgt. Shandra Mathes, 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintenance craftsman (in yellow jacket), drives nails Nov. 6. The Airmen volunteered to build kennels and enlarge pens at an animal shelter dedicated to protecting stray dogs and cats. The Airmen completed two kennels and donated materials for two more (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

TURDA, Romania – Airmen hold framework for a dog kennel as Staff Sgt. Shandra Mathes, 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintenance craftsman (in yellow jacket), drives nails Nov. 6. The Airmen volunteered to build kennels and enlarge pens at an animal shelter dedicated to protecting stray dogs and cats. The Airmen completed two kennels and donated materials for two more (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

TURDA, Romania -- In the shadow of an abandoned brewery, stray dogs are being given a place to live and meals to eat.

Recently, a group of Airmen participating in Operation Golden Lance on nearby Campia Turzii Air Base offered their assistance with the shelter.

Staff Sgt. Rachel Lubovich, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron material readiness supervisor, first heard about the shelter when another NCO inquired about helping a stray puppy near her hotel.

"She touched my heart, but I wanted to make sure she could get off the street," said Sergeant Lubovich, who contacted Romania Animal Rescue, Inc., an association based in California that works adoptions of Romanian puppies to people in America.

The head of Romania Animal Rescue, Inc., referred Sergeant Lubovich to two local associations that run the shelter.

When Sergeant Lubovich and her friends arrived at the shelter, they saw they had their work cut out for them.

"We saw that it needed a lot of work," said Sergeant Lubovich, who raised 1,600 Romanian ron to buy supplies, including toys, bowls, brushes and dog food.

The dog food was important for one dog, a female who had recently given birth and wasn't eating the scraps that local butchers donate to the shelter.

"I noticed that when I came back they'd given her dog food and she was eating it," said Sergeant Lubovich.

Besides pet supplies, Sergeant Lubovich bought enough building material to construct four new kennels. On their final weekend in Romania, she and 10 other Airmen came and built two of the kennels, as well as put up fencing for a new pen.

"We just wanted to do anything we could to help them out," said Sergeant Lubovich.

The stray animals are usually cast-offs from families that could no longer afford to keep them. Dora Fodor of Our Friends, an association dedicated to helping hundreds of stray dogs in Turda and elsewhere in Romania, hopes the shelter will change people's opinions about strays.

"All street dogs once had a person to look after them," Ms. Fodor said. "These dogs aren't guilty that they're on the street."

Sergeant Lubovich added that while food and shelter are vital, the volunteers at the shelter provide another important element.

"More than anything, I think they needed human interaction and attention," she said.

After she returns home to RAF Lakenheath, Sergeant Lubovich said she intends to stay in contact with her new friends on how the shelter is progressing, send care packages and even come back to do more work on the shelter.

"I hope to come back on my own and volunteer. It'll be an ongoing effort," she said.
Ms. Fodor said the Airmen's help came at a very good time as Our Friends, and its sister organization, Three Spotted Brothers, are attempting to expand the shelter so smaller dogs aren't forced to be with stronger, more aggressive ones, as well as continue to purchase much needed supplies.

"We are very, very grateful, in the name of the dogs," she said.