A Ukrainian bomb-sniffing dog and his owner were awarded a service medal by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday during a ceremony in Kyiv alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Jack Russell terrier, named “Patron,” has been credited with sniffing out more than 200 explosive devices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Patron has become a symbol of Ukrainian patriotism, and his mine hunting has been chronicled by media worldwide since the start of the war. Patron struggled to maintain his composure during the ceremony and barked at the Canadian prime minister as he was awarded his medal.
“In the presence of Mr. Prime Minister [Trudeau], I awarded our sappers today. In particular, a small but very famous sapper — Patron. A dog who helps clean our land from the traces of the occupiers. And who also helps teach children mine safety,” Zelensky said in his nightly address Sunday.
Patron barked and wagged his tail as the Ukrainian president awarded his owner, Maj. Myhailo Iliev, the medal. Trudeau appeared to search his pockets for a dog treat as Patron barked in his direction during the ceremony.
“Even if the dog barked at me, we’re helping fund that,” Trudeau said during the ceremony, referencing the $50 million in military aid from Canada, including money for demining operations, that he announced during his visit.
Zelensky said on Sunday that Russian forces have left behind thousands of mines, tripwire mines, and undetonated shells since their Feb. 24 invasion, and clearing them as well teaching the public how to recognize landmines is essential.
“Due to the Russian invaders, this is now one of the most urgent tasks — to teach children to recognize and avoid explosive objects. This is the ‘liberation’ from a safe life for Ukrainian children that Russia has brought to Ukraine,” Zelensky said.
Russian forces have reportedly deployed an advanced type of landmine in Ukraine that can detonate as a person is walking up to it, sending shrapnel up to 50 feet away, making clearing them a challenge.
The latest casualty numbers by the U.N. put the number of civilians killed in Ukraine since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion at 3,309, with at least 3,493 injured.