A young man named Yeison, aged 23, embarked on a perilous journey from Venezuela, accompanied by his beloved pet squirrel, Niko. Their extraordinary journey spanned thousands of miles, including months of living in a makeshift tent in Mexico, all in pursuit of a better life in the United States. However, their bond is now facing an uncertain future, as Niko’s entry into the U.S. hangs in the balance.
Yeison and Niko’s Trek from Venezuela to the U.S.
Yeison’s attachment to Niko is profound, and he dreads the possibility of parting ways with his furry companion. Niko, a charming squirrel with a distinctive black stripe and white fur, clung to Yeison during their treacherous odyssey, tucked safely inside a knitted cap within Yeison’s backpack. Leaving Niko behind in Venezuela was never an option for Yeison, as he believes that starting afresh without his loyal companion would be akin to starting life from scratch.
Yeison’s journey alongside Niko reflects the struggles of millions who have fled Venezuela due to political and economic turmoil in recent years. For migrants like Yeison, the arduous 3,000-mile trek northward presents difficult choices regarding what to bring along. They typically carry only what they can bear on their backs, making Niko’s inclusion all the more remarkable.
The Remarkable Friendship of Yeison and Niko
Their journey took them through the notorious Darien Gap jungle, where they encountered the grim sight of a deceased traveller hidden under blankets. Niko remained concealed in Yeison’s backpack as they boarded buses and navigated checkpoint inspections in Mexico. On the rare occasion when a vigilant bus driver discovered Niko, Yeison resorted to selling his phone for $35 to ensure Niko’s continued presence.
The bond between Yeison and Niko is palpable, as they’ve shared their experiences, challenges, and even their sleeping arrangements in a tent in Matamoros, Mexico. Yeison managed to earn a livelihood by offering haircuts in their tent, all while sharing a pillow with Niko at night.
The little squirrel’s fate
However, their fate hangs in the balance as Yeison secures an appointment to seek asylum at the U.S. border. The odds of Niko being granted entry appear slim, but the volunteers at the encampment are not giving up on their extraordinary case.
Gladys Canas, the director of the non-governmental organization “Ayudandoles A Triunfar” (roughly translated to “helping to succeed”), has encountered migrants with various pets but had never seen a squirrel like Niko before. She played a crucial role in connecting Yeison with a veterinarian to document Niko’s vaccinations for presentation to border agents, emphasizing the profound bond between the two.
Where it all began
Yeison’s journey with Niko began when he discovered the tiny squirrel as a newborn, nearly stepping on him. Despite initial challenges, they persevered together. Niko’s diet evolved from yogurt to pine trees, tomatoes, and mangos.
Aware of the potential obstacles at the U.S. border, Yeison briefly sought work in Colombia. However, he returned upon discovering a pine splinter lodged in Niko’s eye, determined to reach America. While preparing for a possible separation, Yeison remains hopeful, expressing his wishes that Niko never forgets his face and continues to find happiness.
The extraordinary journey of Yeison and Niko serves as a testament to the unbreakable bond between humans and their cherished animal companions, even in the face of daunting challenges and uncertain futures. Their story reflects the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring power of love and friendship.
For more stories like this, check out the koala that demands some cuddles and kisses