A day in the war zone with Patron: Ukraine’s sniffer dog hero has detected over 200 Russian mines
When the Russian shells explode, everyone takes cover except Patron, who doesn’t even flinch.
But Patron is a national hero, recently awarded a medal for valor by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has 250,000 followers on Instagram and is the star of billboards symbolizing his country’s defiance of Vladimir Putin.
Patron the Jack Russell has become a billboard-worthy war hero, as his bomb disposal skills have helped the team find over 200 Russian landmines and unexploded bombs.
He is also a Jack Russell originally purchased to appear in pedigree dog shows, but has spotted over 200 deadly Russian land mines and unexploded bombs.
Tail wagging, Patron, whose name translates to Bullet in English, earns his reward of a piece of cheese from his owner and handler Mykhailo Iliev. He has to be careful with candy. Patron weighs 4kg, less than the 5kg that detonates most Russian ammunition.
The two-year-old pet found fame when Ukraine’s State Emergency Service posted a video online of their pet at work in the war-torn northern city of Chernihiv. She received the medal from her at the presidential palace in kyiv with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was visiting, looking on.
As we travel into the landmine-strewn forests around Chernihiv, troops and police officers at checkpoints cheer on Patron and pose for selfies. “He now gets a lot more tired from all the attention,” says Mykhailo. “But he’s good at keeping the morale of the guys up.”
Patron even helps excavate the explosives before they are destroyed.
Skipper, the medal-winning explosives dog pictured with his owner, 33-year-old Mykhailo Iliev.
Zelenskiy awarded Patron at a press conference in kyiv with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
He is the ‘soul and pet’ of the group and assists the Ukrainian State Emergency Service (SES) in clearing explosives.
Patron sniffs out entire sites and detects bombs with the support of his 19-member bomb disposal team
Arriving at a clearing, Patron soon finds abandoned Russian trenches littered with empty missile crates for Russia’s Grad truck-mounted rocket launchers. Wearing his blue military harness adorned with an embroidered bullet, Patron darts through the thicket to sniff out live ammunition.
After buying Patron, Mykhailo soon realized that the dog could help him in his job as a bomb disposal expert.
“My wife is also in the services and there was no one at home to take care of him, so I take him to work with me every day since he was two months old,” he says.
The bravery of the Jack Russell Terrier has become an internet hit for his exploits.
Patron continues to help pyrotechnicians in the Chernihiv region cleanse the land of Russian ‘gifts’
Sometimes, at the end of a hard day’s work, Patron the dog is rewarded with a cheese treat.
‘This is his life, it’s all he’s ever known. It’s just a matter of luck that we have such a capable dog. He is not a service dog, he is my pet, but he has an amazing sense of smell and is an avid learner. He was meant to be a show dog, but his destiny was to save people’s lives, not win prizes.
Starting at six months, Patron was trained to detect TNT and gunpowder. When he does, he stiffens and stands with his nose down until Mykhailo and his team approach.
A Telegram post from the Ukrainian emergency services calls the cute little pup: ‘our militant dog’
More recently, Patron’s valiant efforts have earned him some fans who have drawn the four-legged soldier.
One of Mykhailo’s colleagues on the front line in Kharkiv was recently injured when a mine exploded. Does he care about Patron? “Of course, I’m scared every day for him and all my guys,” she says. “But for every month of war, he takes us about a year to clear all the mines and unexploded ordnance.”
As we speak, Mykhailo’s team is alerted to abandoned Russian shells, smoke bombs and other boats nearby. When we arrive, a dozen officers insist on being photographed with the canine celebrity.
Skipper, a two-year-old Jack Russell, pictured next to Russian TM-62M AT and PMN-1 AP landmines
The little dog soon confirms that the cache is active and wags his tail as Mykhailo pulls his bulletproof vest and helmet out of the car. The customer knows that a piece of cheese is coming.
Mykhailo and his team carefully place the shells into a hole, which Patron rather charmingly helps dig before they explode. The explosion is deafening, but Patron just wags his tail. “He’s used to it,” says Mykhailo. ‘This is a normal day.’
Patron, the diminutive Jack Russell whose name means “cartridge” or “bullet,” is fast becoming a canine symbol of Ukrainian patriotism.
The two-year-old dog has gained fame on social media after enchanting fans and pyrotechnicians in Chernihiv.
An adorable cheese-loving Jack Russell has been helping Ukrainian forces by sniffing out explosives.
Normal days are rare these days for the 19-member bomb disposal team. Their workload has increased tenfold since the February invasion.
Even the indefatigable Patron feels the strain. ‘Some days he is so tired that he doesn’t eat dinner. He comes home, takes a drink of water and just falls asleep,” says Mykhailo. “But he always wakes up excited to come back the next day.”