Ukrainian bomb-sniffing dog teaches children mine safety
How the life of the most famous Jack Russell Terrier in Ukraine has changed since the full scale war broke out on 24 February.
According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SES), around 30 per cent of the territory of Ukraine may potentially be mined as a result of hostilities. Explosive objects can be found in rivers, forests and fields, on the roadsides, in hospitals, in residential buildings and playgrounds, and even in children's toys.
To prevent injuries and deaths, SES rescuers in Chernihivska region teach young Ukrainians about the importance of following safety rules in case of a possible encounter with mines and shells. Today, they have a very famous assistant – Patron, a bomb-sniffing Jack Russell Terrier, who helps them during their official tasks.
Patron has quickly become a mascot for the SES, working together with sappers and pyrotechnics from Chernihiv to help find over 300 explosive objects. This year, he earned legions of fans, and was recently awarded a special title – Goodwill Dog – from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Ukraine for the first time in the history of the organization.
Patron's owner is Mykhailo Iliev, the head of the SES pyrotechnic works group in the Chernihivska region. He and his wife Iryna never imagined that any of this would happen when they adopted a white and brown puppy.
At first, Patron ran for sticks, worked with a dog handler and was obsessed with cheese. But after February 24, he expanded his skill set by finishing a specialized training programme. Since then, he has been assisting Mykhailo in demining.
“We were working under shelling in those settlements that came back under Ukraine’s control, as well as in forests that were full of artillery shells and mines,” says Mykhailo. “Usually, Patron runs ahead to discover the territory. In case he finds something, he starts barking or just sits and patiently waits for us to come and take away detected ordnance.”
Patron often works seven days a week. As well as his mine detection work, he and Mykhailo visit communities to teach children to be careful and follow the rules in case they discover an unknown object: "Do not approach! Do not touch! Call 101!"
Ukrainian children can already tell the different types of ordnance and mines apart, and they know how missiles sound. But the responsibility for informing them about the threat lies with adults, both parents and teachers.
Thankfully, the four-legged sapper Patron is ready to help.
“Even before February 24, we informed people about mine safety,” says Iryna, spokeswoman for the SES Office in Chernihivska region. “From now on, we do it together with Patron, explaining how a mine works and explodes and what is the main danger of it. Kids will not get this information through dull lessons with people in uniform. We make children think that they can talk to Patron, and thus they grasp information better.”