There have been many heroes emerging from the war between Ukraine and Russia, but surely none have been as small and as brave as a Jack Russell named Patron.
The two-year-old canine is the definition of dynamite coming in small packages.
Along with saving countless lives, he’s also managed to steal hearts in the process and has his very own line of merchandise available. T-shirts with the little dog's face can be purchased with proceeds going towards the Ukrainian army.
Patron, whose name means “ammo" in Ukrainian, has the important job of helping sniff out Russian mines and explosives in the north-eastern city of Chernihiv. He’s helped detect more than 200 undetonated devices since the beginning of the war in late February, according to Reuters.
“This is his life, it's all he has known,” says his owner, Mykhailo Iliev (32), who works with the Civil Protection Service as a bomb disposal expert.
“He's not a service dog, he's my pet, but he has an amazing nose and he's an avid learner," Mykhailo adds. “It is just a matter of chance that we have such a capable dog."
Mykhailo initially bought Patron from a colleague for his son who was keen to enter him in dog shows, but it soon became clear that their pooch had a much bigger purpose in life.
“His destiny was to save people's lives, not to win prizes.”
The little Ukrainian hero, who wears a pint-sized bulletproof vest when he's working, was professionally trained to sniff out TNT and gunpowder.
So how does he react when suspects a threat nearby? The brave dog stops and stands with his nose down until Mykhailo and his team approach to remove the bomb or landmine.
The plucky Jack Russell was recently awarded a medal for valour by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the presidential palace in Kyiv.
Patron has gained quite a following for his efforts and has been described as the "soul and mascot" of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. He even has his own Instagram page with more than 320 000 followers where he’s sometimes seen dressed up in traditional Ukrainian clothes. On his days off he enjoys napping and snacking on cheese.
The Washington Post reports that more than 54 000 mines, including nearly 2 000 missiles, have been found and deactivated in Ukraine since the beginning of the war.
In addition to helping sniff out explosives, Patron is also a much-needed morale booster to the humans in his team.
Mykhailo says when things get tough, Patron has a knack for being able to lighten the mood.
"He can inspire anyone with his appearance and his eyes," the proud dog handler told Today.com. "He gives rays of the sun, he gives smiles and he gives hope."
SOURCES: DAILYMAIL.CO.UK; PETSRADAR.COM; NPR.COM; TODAY.COM; NYTIMES.COM