War affects everyone from adults to children to animals. The intensity and fear associated with fighting for long periods of time can negatively affect both domesticated and wild animal populations. And, in many instances, animals — especially dogs — have been recruited to the war efforts in the US and beyond.
Still, in the midst of all the pain caused by war — especially during one like the horrific invasion of Ukraine by Russia — stories of triumph and kindness can be found. Like the one about the sweet Belgian Shepherd who was abandoned by the Russian war effort and adopted by Ukrainian soldiers.
In late April 2022, the Ukrainian military managed to drive the Russian forces out of the Nikolaev villages. Nikolaev is a region close to Mykolaiv, and when the Russians deserted it, they left behind weapons, shells, ammunition, and more. They also left a dog.
The dog — a Belgian Shepherd — was definitely a military animal. When he was found by Ukrainian soldiers, they noticed a camouflage collar with the Russian word for protector embroidered on it. They knew then that he was trained to serve in the military. He was simply on the wrong side of the war.
Naming the dog Max, the Ukrainian soldiers guessed he was about three years old when they found him. They also noticed he knew a number of commands, but only in Russian. They posted on Facebook that Max's "Ukrainian language classes have already begun."
Belgian Shepherds are smart, active dogs that are well known for their ability to get involved in police work. They're also extremely trainable and don't have much tendency toward howling or play-biting, making them a great animal for this kind of work.
It only took Max a month to learn Ukrainian commands, and the soldiers assured his fans on Facebook that he would soon be serving with them to clear out dangerous materials left behind by the occupying forces. They also used the opportunity to remind residents in the area to be very careful if they came across any of these items.
Max has followers all over the world, many of whom have posted comments on his Facebook pictures. These range from one in Polish that reads, "Piękny piesek..." (Beautiful dog) to one in English, saying, "A great help to the undermanned under equipped [sic] patriots" to another in Spanish that congratulated the team and asked, "Que DIOS los bendiga a todo el pueblo de ucrania [sic]" (May God bless all the people of Ukraine).
Currently, Max is still with the team, learning and helping out his new family. His mission to assist the Ukrainian army in a conflict that has captured the attention of the entire world will not be ignored.