Ukrainian bomb sniffer dog named honorable patron by Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky regularly concluded his wartime night speeches by announcing state awards for Ukrainian soldiers. On Sunday he honored a fighter who is perhaps the smallest in the country, a small dog named Patron.

Patron, whose name means “ammunition” in Ukrainian, helps sniff out Russian mines and explosives in the northeastern city of Chernihiv and serves as the country’s state emergency service mascot.

The dog found more than 200 explosive devices and was taught pyrotechnic work by its owner, Mykhailo Iliev of the civil defense service, Zelensky said.

Patron’s rise to fame may be another aspect of Ukrainian efforts to control the war narrative viral messaging – Experts have said that dramatic wartime tales are critical parts of the country’s information strategy. On the Facebook page of the Ukrainian SES, where they shared updates on Patron’s work, a video of him putting on a vest and climbing into a soldier’s lap has been seen hundreds of thousands of times.

It was a clip from the same footage shared on Twitter an hour later from the Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications – a government agency set up to counter Russian disinformation that aims to “develop proactive narratives” and “strengthen Ukraine’s image” – and garnered nearly 900,000 views.

Patron is so adored in Ukraine and beyond that he has inspired various forms of fan art in his honour. He is loved by children and helps them understand safety rules in mine-threatened areas, Zelensky said during the presentation of the award in Kiev, the capital. Informing residents of the dangers of mines has been an ongoing effort for officials in Chernihiv and other regions after reports that retreating Russian forces have left buried land mines and jury-rigged bombs across much of the country.

In addition to receiving a state award on Sunday, Patron also met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was on an unannounced visit to the country and stroked his pockets during the ceremony in an apparent attempt to locate the delicacies. The dog was “extremely happy to meet a true friend from Ukraine”, the SES reports“even though Mr. Trudeau didn’t find a piece of Patron’s favorite cheese.”