The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has produced an unlikely hero — a Jack Russell Terrier named Patron. The two-year-old pooch is credited with detecting over 200 Russian explosives since the war began in February. On May 8, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy honored Patron and his owner, Mykhailo Iliev, with a presidential medal for their service to the country.
"I want to award those Ukrainian heroes who are already clearing our land of mines. And together with our heroes – a wonderful little sapper [combat engineer], Patron who helps not only to neutralize explosives but also to teach our children the necessary safety rules in areas where there is a mine threat," Zelenskyy said during Sunday's ceremony.
Aptly named after the Ukrainian word for "ammo," Patron has become a symbol of the war-torn country's patriotism. The pint-sized dog, who has captured hearts worldwide, boasts over 260,000 Instagram followers and even has his own fan art.
Iliev originally bought Patron as a pet for his son. The puppy received professional training to showcase skills for specific tasks. But as the conflict became imminent, his trainers began teaching the quick learner to sniff out gunpowder. When alerted by Patron, Iliev and his team scout out the area for hidden bombs and neutralize them. When not helping the Ukrainian forces, the friendly puppy spends his time cheering up young patients at the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine.
"One day, Patron's story will be turned into a film, but for now, he is faithfully performing his professional duties," tweeted Ukraine's Center for Strategic Communications.
Resources: NPR.org, BBC.com, CNN.com, Desert.com