A 2-year-old Jack Russell Terrier has captured the hearts of Ukrainians as he sniffs out mines and other unexploded weapons left behind by Russian soldiers.
Patron, who was professionally trained by cynologists, is supposed to be performing in public exhibitions, showcasing how dogs can be formally trained to conduct specific tasks.
But more than month after the first Russian bombs fell on Ukraine, and after Ukrainian soldiers successfully pushed back Russian forces and liberated formerly-Russian occupied towns, Patron started to learn how to sniff out mines.
Now, Patron works around the clock to find unexploded weapons in the town and surrounding area of Chernihiv.
"(Patron) works 24/7, as does a group of pyrotechnicians, and it will take about a year and a half to clean up the city," Misha, Patron's owner, told TODAY Parents. "The entire region, about three to four years."
In order to find mines and other missiles left behind by Russian forces, Patron learned to identify the smell of gunpowder. When he sniffs it out he immediately gives a signal to Misha, who works with Patron to find and, with the help of his human colleagues, defuse them.
“It all depends on how deep or in what place (the weapon) is hidden,” Misha added.
Patron works with Misha, 32, and Misha only. He bought Patron from a work colleague initially as a pet for his son. Misha, who is from Chernihiv and has been working in the profession since 2014, says that Patron has a passion for his work. Even at the worst of times the brave pooch can lift the mood of his team.
"He can inspire anyone with his appearance and eyes," Misha said.
The amount of unexploded weapons Patron has found is a secret — a spokesman for the State Emergency Service told The Washington Post that at least 54,000 mines and unexploded ordnance, including nearly 2,000 missiles, have been found and deactivated in Ukraine.
Over 600 de-miners are working across the country, and officials are working to recruit even more pyrotechnicians in order to expand the number of teams working to rid Ukraine of the mines, bombs and missiles Russian soldiers deliberately left behind.
"In such a profession, everyone is afraid of something," Misha said. "If you're not afraid of this, then it's time for you to change jobs, since you can inflict trouble on others."
While the team is hard at work at all hours of the day and night, Patron and his owner do find some time to play and have fun.
"Patron just loves cheese," Misha said. "He is a very active dog that likes to have a good run with other dogs and then, of course, sleep."
Misha says that, in the midst of a violent war in which Russian troops have committed atrocious war crimes, Patron "gives rays of the sun, gives smiles and gives hope only for victory and peace on earth" to the people of Ukraine.
"Patron will work as long as our people need it."