There’s a popular saying that humans do not deserve dogs because of their unwavering loyalty and love. Patron, Ukraine’s bomb-sniffing dog, has proven this time-tested claim of loyalty as he becomes one of Ukraine’s most decorated war heroes to be awarded since the invasion started on February 24.
Patron, the bomb-sniffing dog whose name means “cartridge” in Ukrainian, was decorated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last Sunday during a news conference held in Kyiv. The Ukrainian government estimates that Patron has detected around 250-260 Russian explosives in Chernihiv.
The 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier received the award in the presence of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was visiting Ukraine at that time. According to the person announcing the award, Patron received the “Medal for Dedicated Service.” When his handler received the award, Patron was seen to be wagging his tail excitedly, indicating that he was happy to be receiving the state award.
His owner, Major Myhailo Iliev from the Civil Protection Service, also received the state award for his duties as a mine-defusing pyrotechnician. Trudeau was seen to be patting his pockets and coat for a treat for Patron but could not find one.
“Today, I want to award those Ukrainian heroes who are already clearing our land of mines. And together with our heroes, a wonderful little sapper – 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,” Zelensky said after the ceremony.
Patron has grown to be a symbol of national pride for the Ukrainians, which shows anybody can serve their country in any capacity. Patron first gained popularity in a series of viral videos that the Ukrainian Government has published online, most notable for the time Patron fell asleep on a table during a news conference. In other videos, he was seen to be putting his vest on with his handler and climbing into a vehicle into another soldier’s lap.
A dog called Patron, who works with SES rescuers in Chernihiv, has helped defuse nearly 90 explosive devices since the beginning of the full-scale invasion 🐶 One day, Patron's story will be turned into a film, but for now, he is faithfully performing his professional duties. pic.twitter.com/2PpT8p4Yfr
— Stratcom Centre UA (@StratcomCentre) March 19, 2022
This can be hypothesized to be part of Ukraine’s efforts to uplift the morale of not just their armed forces but also the Ukrainian public. Something as simple as a dog jumping into service can be a very big boost for morale. Simple smiles and a little bit of laughter go a long way in bleak and dark moments of the war, especially for toddlers and little children that may be mentally affected by the constant Russian bombings over their country. While not as dramatic as the edited videos from the Ukrainian government (notably used for propaganda), Patron’s videos are more light-hearted. Both forms of propaganda are vital wartime stories that may affect the outcome of the war, especially to motivate soldiers and the public to not give up.
Ukraine is pretty open about its line of messaging. In one of Patron’s videos, they claimed that Patron’s story of service would be turned into a film in the future. The narrative seems to be working as Patron’s videos have garnered millions of views across different social media platforms. More so, Patron has over 220,000 followers on Instagram, so he’s probably more famous than all of us combined.
Patron is adored in Ukraine. This isn’t a secret as various artworks of him, from drawings, paintings, and even embroidered stuffed animal versions of him, are popping up everywhere. Just like how the Russian symbol, the letter “Z,” has functioned as a show of support for the invasion of Ukraine, Patron is more of the “lovable” and “huggable” Ukrainian propaganda. He is often referred to as “our brave baby,” which does evoke feelings of attachment and warmth, as opposed to the Russian “Z” that does feel like it’s from a sinister villain from a superhero movie.
“Our brave baby Patron has inspired an incredible number of gifted artists, and we are incredibly happy for that,” the Ukrainian SES said in their Facebook post. “It motivates not to give up no matter how hard it is, to keep the bar high and to fight with new strength, knowing how many people are still waiting for help and how many people believe in us,” they continued.
“Our Patron doesn’t let his feet down either and sends his gratitude to everyone 🐾 Great heroes don’t necessarily have to be great. Therefore believe in your strength, in our defenders, in our Victory. Bring her closer on all fronts where you can, and don’t let the turns go 🤗.”
Most of Patron’s paintings and sketches would depict him in either “cute” styled drawings, heroic-themed shots, or relatable content targeted toward children and teens. As one concrete example, we found a drawing that depicts Patron to be urinating on a Russian missile, which is quite clever if we do say so ourselves.
More than a man’s best friend in combat and in normal everyday life, Patron’s very powerful nose and intelligence will prove very important to Ukraine’s demining efforts, as well as morale-boosting efforts in the long run.