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Furry battalion. How animals help in war

Dogs, long-standing human helpers, do not stay away from war. They also help in the fight against the russian aggressor: they participate in mine clearance, patrol streets, identify RSGs, defend checkpoints, evacuate people from combat zones, volunteer, and even collect humanitarian aid.

Among others, the most famous dog is Patron, who, as part of the Chernihiv division of explosives technicians of the State Emergency Service, helped defuse more than 200 mines and shells, received the order “For Dedicated Service” from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, barked on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and became an Instagram star.

But he is not the only one. will tell you about the furry battalion that protects our land along with the people.

Furry battalion. How animals help in war

Dog-sapper Patron

Photo: SES

Since the beginning of the war, a Jack Russell Terrier dog named Patron has become very popular. He is clearing mines in the Chernihiv region as part of the Regional Division of the State Emergency Service. Patron started his service at six months old and has been helping the sapper unit for almost two years.

"Patron works for us as a sapper in the pyrotechnic works group, 24 hours a day, 24\7. He goes with us to all mine clearance calls and is present at the destruction of ammunition. When we go around the local population, he helps us conduct briefings. It brings joy to children, everyone wants to take a photo with him,” Major of the Civil Protection Service of the Main Department of the State Emergency Service, owner of the Patron Mykhailo Iliev said at the national television marathon.

The name of the dog was given by the son of Mykhailo, who, by the way, is also interested in explosive devices and attends training of the State Emergency Service. In the sapper unit, Patron is called a mascot. He encourages rescuers, and inspires them, even when there is no more energy. Patron also helps directly in mine clearance.

“He can search for explosive devices. We train him, and his abilities are getting better every day. We are doing everything possible to make him a general specialist in our field,” Mykhailo Iliev says.

Patronchyk [affectionate diminutive name - tr.], as the rescuers affectionately call him, likes cheese. If you want, you can send him various goodies by "Nova Poshta". You can contact the Main Department of the State Emergency Service in the Chernihiv region to get the address. 

"We give him cheese for complete work done. And when he does everything right, we give him other incentives,” the sapper said.

The dog Patron became famous on March 16, when a photo appeared on the Internet in which he is being held for the tactical vest. Mykhailo Iliev said that the dog's name vest appeared even before the full-scale aggression of russia - it was custom-made. This spring, the dog was supposed to go on a business trip to the Joint Forces Operation.

Patron became the hero of memes. On March 20, he created an Instagram account. As of May 13, he had 252 thousand followers. Every day, children send dozens of drawings to this account direct. They all appear in stories. 

The sapper dog has already managed to get into a “scandal” - he fell asleep at a press conference. On May 8, 2022, Volodymyr Zelenskyy honored Patron with Medal for Dedicated Service. And while receiving the award, Patron barked at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Kyiv on a business visit. Together with the patron, the Order for Courage, Third Class, was also awarded to its owner.

Furry stewardess Nicole

Rescue people from combat zones help the dog, Nicole. Together with its owner, stewardess Maria (name changed), it evacuates people from the war-torn regions of Ukraine. 

Nicole and Maria met back in 2018. After the journey, the stewardess heard that someone was whining under the car. It was a small puppy whose paw was frozen to the rail track.

“I managed to get it, but the dog couldn't stand on her legs. I picked her up and she hug me with her legs. I realized she had a wire wrapped around her neck. My colleagues helped me unravel this wire. I decided to take her to the reserve (the place where they prepare the carriages for the trip -, we had dogs there, but they did not accept her," the stewardess says.

Then Maria took Nicole home under her pea-jacket. The girl says that the dog still likes to sleep on her service jacket.

Nicole accompanies Maria on trips because she can't leave the pet home alone for so long. The dog once stayed with some friends, but with the outbreak of hostilities they left, and Nicole is constantly helping Maria on the railroad.

The dog doesn't let anyone get close to her: two years ago, children scared her and she was hit by a car, and she's been wary of kids ever since. However, during the evacuation of children with special needs from the Donetsk region to Poland, Nicole became friends with them.

"When we took the children to Poland, Nicole proved herself. She played with the children, they led her on a leash, stroked her, and gave her a massage. So, step by step, she began to communicate with people, and reach out to them more. Sometimes I yell, “Nicole, Where are you?” And one of the passengers says to me: “she is here, near me.” She has a sensitivity to people who need to be encouraged. One passenger told me: "I had grief, and so a dog came to me, and I wasn't so sad anymore," the stewardess recalled.

So Nicole became friends with the girl Eva. It turned out that Eva and her mother were sent by their father to Poland, while he joined the army. The girl was very sad, and Nicole cheered her up.

Like Patron, Nicole also has an Instagram account, but it's not as popular at the moment. Maria was offered to start it by volunteers of an animal shelter in the city where she lives.

“I help a local animal shelter. Nicole always somehow finds dogs that need help. Once she saved a little sheepdog from the dogs, and then she found a little puppy in the basement and brought it to me. I don't always have enough money, so I approach the shelter that I need to give the dog to them because there is a voyage tomorrow. And people came and took these dogs from me. These volunteers offered me to start an Instagram for my dog. I did just that," says Maria. 

Social networks were captivated by the image of Nicole in a stewardess' hat. Maria says that the photo was taken during an evacuation trip.

“The evacuation trip differs from the usual one in that people are boarding without tickets. I went out and said hello to everyone, and Nicole said hello too. We drove very strangely that day: somewhere we stood, somewhere we drove very fast, we didn't understand what stations we were at. Searching for the Internet to find out. One passenger succeeded and said we were near Ternopil. I ask if anyone needs to get off at Ternopil, and I tell the train manager to stop the train. Nicole was helping me to adjust it. Then she got tired and went to sleep on the seat. I decided to put a hat on her, and people who were going to the rubber connection took a photo of her,” Maria says. 

Now Nicole is taking a break from work, but you can travel with her in one carriage on May 15 on the train Kyiv - Dnipro. 

Kate patrols the subway

Belgian Shepherd Malinois Kate is on guard of the Kyiv subway. She and the deputy head of the Cynological Center of the National Police in Kyiv, Senior Lieutenant Vitaliy Lytvyn are looking for explosives and weapons, and in their spare time entertain the displaced at the central station in the capital.

“We are carrying out preventive measures to search for explosives and weapons in the subway. Mostly where there are a lot of people and heavy passenger traffic. These are the stations "Demydivka", "Vydubychi", "Zhytomyr" and " Svyatoshyn". There we look for suspicious things, and inspect people's luggage,” says Vitaliy Lytvyn.

Most of all, Kate likes toys. As the dog handler says, "she would give her life for them". This is due to the specifics of training, the police officer explains: dogs looking for explosives are trained through the game; to get fun, Kate must find dangerous objects.

In their spare time, Vitaliy and Kate go to the Kyiv railway station.

“When it's not our shift, we entertain children, displaced persons, and those residents of Kyiv who are leaving. It works like psychological therapy. We are trying to defuse the situation a little bit. So those children who come from the combat zones can play a little with the dog and for a while distract themselves from the horror that they experienced,” said Vitaliy.

Vitaliy and Kate also work on searches of crime suspects and come on mine clearance calls.

Kira is on guard of the Kyiv territorial defense

Kira, a Belgian shepherd, is on the front lines defending the capital as part of the 112th Brigade of Territorial Defense of Kyiv. She decided to join its ranks on her own - just ran to the checkpoint and stayed.

Kira is ready to bite and even kill any occupier who dares to come to Kyiv.

“She came to us in the first days of the war. Maybe the owners left somewhere, like most Kyiv residents, or there was no place for her in the car,” the military says.

When the soldiers built the checkpoint, Kira helped bring the tools. The shepherd dog was with the guys at the shooting. She was not afraid of the gunshots and explosions. The dog accompanies us from our positions to our resting place. 

Soldiers say that Kira is the first to hear when something is wrong. They joke that a shepherd knows a lot of the unit's secrets, but definitely won't tell the enemy.

Archie the Labrador is a weapons specialist

In Zaporizhzhya, a black Labrador Archie has been faithfully performing his duties for five years. Together with the younger dog handler Veronika Leshchenko, the dog is looking for weapons and explosives.

"Archie is a weapons and explosives specialist - that's his specialty. If there is something, we will always find it. He checks cars at checkpoints, also works at the railway station, and searches newly arrived trains and luggage. We go to places where suspicious objects are found. Because of the war, we have a double load,” says the dog handler.

Archie is a very serious and wayward dog, and it is not easy to establish contact with him. Veronika Leshchenko says that she was looking for contact with him for 1.5 months. He can't be encouraged with food, his daily ration the dog can prolong for two days. Like all Labradors, Archie is very active, most of all he likes to play with the ball.

"If mostly Labradors eat everything, then mine doesn't. His work is not based on food, but the ball. He craves it the most. He gets it when he finds certain things,” says Veronika Leshchenko.

Veronica and Archie are also checking cargo and people who are being evacuated from the occupied territories in the south of the country. The dog handler says that she is very much waiting for the temporarily occupied territories of the Zaporizhzhya region to be liberated. She says there will be a lot of work for her and Archie. 

Four-legged Bayraktars

During the Russian-Ukrainian war, the Bayraktar drone became legendary. While drones destroy enemy armored vehicles, four-legged soldiers help the police and National Guardsmen.

A dog came to one of the Guard positions on the first day of the war and decided to stay. They called him Bayraktar.

Bayraktar in the National Guard
Bayraktar in the National Guard

The fighters said that Bayraktar is their secret weapon. Animals on the front line are not only anti-stress but also extra eyes and ears. 

"This is our main weapon. He is the first to sense the likely danger and point it out. Like us, he is on duty 24 hours a day," the press service of the National Guard says.

In the Kyiv region, the Regional Dog Training Center also has its own Bayraktar. A German shepherd puppy was born at the beginning of the war. The dog was always with the police in Irpin and warned the defenders about enemy attacks. 

Two months later, the dog has grown, and the dog handlers are training Bayraktar to hunt RSGs and looters.

Bayraktar in the National Police
Bayraktar in the National Police

"Baychyk [affectionate diminutive name - tr.] grew up and started training. After testing the puppy, the instructors chose service and search direction for him. Upon completion of the training, the dog will be used to help search for RSG participants and looters," the Dog Training Center of the Kyiv region says. 

Bayraktar has already completed several small training tracks successfully - he seems to have enjoyed it.

Irpin, who turned out to be Dick

After the liberation of Irpin, the police found a shepherd dog there and gave it a covername in honor of the city. The dog was not feeling well. He was groomed, washed, and taken to the vet. 

A few days later, the police found out that Irpin's real name was Dick.

"Our Irpin turned out to be a Dick. His owners were found in the blogs looking for animals that were lost in Irpin, Bucha, and Hostomel. They say that they saved themselves and evacuated the children, but they could not return for their pet, because heavy combat had broken out in the city. Dick lived with the neighbors, but chewed on the leash and ran away. In a week, the owners promise to return for him. In the meantime, he got attached to our Borka (who is actually Andriy and Borka is his covername). We wondered: why did the dog love him so much? And when Boris contacted the owner of the dog via video call, it turned out that they were like two peas in a pod! Sometimes it happens," famous journalist Bohdan Kutepov, who now serves in the National Police, wrote on his Facebook.

Blogger cat Stepan - volunteer

Cats also help Ukraine as much as they can.

In November last year, Stepan the cat from Kharkiv became a star of social networks. The world-famous singer Britney Spears posted his photo with a glass of wine on her Instagram. Since then, 1.3 million people have subscribed to Stepan's page.

After the start of the war, there were no new messages or posts for two weeks.

"On February 24, early in the morning, we were at home and sleeping peacefully. At 5 a.m. an explosion was heard, and through sleep, I didn't even realize what it was. After about half an hour, we heard other explosions, the windows were shaking, I jumped up and realized that something terrible was happening! Offensive and shelling of Kharkiv. We realized that war had come to our house," said Anna, the cat's owner.

With the cat, she managed to evacuate to Poland, after that she left for France.

After relocating, Stepan began volunteering. He started raising funds for the rescue of animals at the Mykolaiv zoo, the largest in Ukraine.

A message appeared on the cat's Instagram page urging people to join the fundraising.

"Your donation is extremely valuable - thanks to your support we will be able to provide decent care and treatment for every animal in Ukraine," said the message on behalf of the Kharkiv cat.

As of March 28, the cat managed to raise 10 thousand dollars. 

Andriy Olenin, journalist
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