Belgian Malinois Abandoned by the Russians Switches Sides

by Britt

The Mykolayiv Regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine has grown by four paws recently thanks to the addition of a trained special forces dog. But Max’s journey to joining the Ukrainian troops was far from conventional.

The three-year-old Belgian Malinois originally arrived in the area with the Russian invasion. A member of the Russian special forces, he served alongside Putin’s forces as they occupied the area. When the Russian forces were driven out, they left behind many dangerous objects including unbroken shells, mines, and ammunition. In addition to the explosives, they abandoned Max.

“The shepherd belonged to the occupiers who captured one of the villages of the Nikolaev region and when during the liberation of the territory they were crushed by Ukrainian defenders – all the dogs ran into the village. One of the families took in Max,” the National Guard of Ukraine shared in a Facebook post.

During the time that he was left to fend for himself, the highly trained dog survived on rotten food that he found in the area. His identity was revealed by a camouflage collar around his neck with the inscription “5.45 Zashchitnik” (Defender), signifying his role with the special forces.

The family that cared for him released Max into the care of the Ukrainian forces where he could put his special training to use for the country that showed him such care and compassion.

Belgian Malinois dogs have a long history of serving in military and police roles, dating back as far as World War 1. Today they continue to serve with law enforcement personnel and even work with the elite Navy SEALS. Their strong and muscular build makes them a highly athletic and versatile breed. At the same time, they are highly intelligent, confident, and fiercely loyal.

Max has been partnered up with a Ukrainian National Guard dog handler.

“Max is in excellent physical shape. He knows all the basic commands. So far, he understands teams only in the language of the occupiers, but Ukrainian language classes have already begun,” explained Dmytro, a National Guard fighter. “So far, he understands teams only in the language of the occupiers, but Ukrainian language classes have already begun.”

The trophy dog has quickly found his place among the guards. He is now proudly serving as a dog sniffer of unexploded mines.

It’s an important role as the Ukrainians work to clear their land of the dangerous Russian explosives. Max will join other hardworking dogs in this mission including Patron, a Jack Russell terrier that was recently awarded a medal for his services by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

At the young age of two and a half years, Patron is credited with helping to identify and clear more than 200 devices. The small hero has gained a lot of attention and even has his own official Instagram page with over 270,000 followers.  When he’s not sniffing out undetonated explosives, Patron can be seen doing other important work such as greeting children from Okhmatdyt children’s hospital in Kyiv.

Both Max and Patron demonstrate that dogs truly are “man’s best friend.”


Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs – Indiana and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.

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