The soldiers revealed that they took him in when they saw the puppy standing outside alone in the cold.
Even amid the barrage of heartbreaking news emerging from Ukraine this month, it has been particularly touching to see the incredible love the country seems to have for animals. The internet was left in awe by the unwavering loyalty Ukrainians have toward their pets as countless photos of citizens fleeing the nation or seeking refuge in underground bomb shelters show their furry companions in tow. Now, it is the unlikely friendship between Ukrainian soldiers in the dugouts and stray dogs that has captured the attention of social media users. In a video widely shared online, Ukrainian soldiers are seen doting over a puppy they took in and named Rambo.
"He is our protector, right Rambo?" one soldier is heard saying in the FreedomNewsTV clip. Speaking to reporters, the soldiers explained that they decided to take Rambo in when they saw the puppy standing outside alone in the cold. "We felt sorry for him. It was freezing outside," they said. "We took him into our post, and he stayed with us." The tiny black pup, with a streak of white on his belly, is seen eagerly wagging its tail in the video as it stands alongside its soldier pals. "He is our security. That is his job," a soldier told the camera.
"He is our watchdog," another soldier added as the puppy scampered about. The soldiers revealed that the pup now "stands guard" outside their post and has proven to be exceptionally good at its job. "He can hear very well if there is a stranger nearby," one soldier said while another agreed, saying: "Rambo is doing hecking good job! Best doggo." According to SCMP, Rambo is not the only "trench pup" who's proven to be a valuable companion for soldiers in the trenches. Speaking to the publication, 21-year-old Ukrainian soldier Mykyta—who refused to give his last name over security concerns—explained how a dog adopted by the troops had become a valued asset on the frontline.
"She immediately barks or growls if the enemy is planning an attack. It's safer and calmer with her – no wonder they say that a dog is man's best friend," said Mykyta. An AFP journalist reportedly revealed that around fifteen cats and several dogs had taken up residence together with the soldiers in one section of the trenches. "The animals aren't to blame – the war is," said 49-year-old soldier Volodymyr, who also declined to give his last name citing security concerns. "They were abandoned. They had to fend for themselves. We have to feed them."
Many of these animals are former pets who were abandoned when over two million Ukrainians were displaced from their homes after fighting broke out in 2014 between pro-Moscow separatists and Kyiv's army. They found solace in soldiers who've been in the muddy and freezing trenches of eastern Ukraine in the years since the conflict. After spending months on the frontline with their adopted strays, some soldiers have ended up taking their new comrades home. The strays have proven valuable in more ways than one for the soldiers. Twenty-nine-year-old soldier Dmytro is full of praise for his black hunting cat, Chernukha.
"When winter came, field mice were running around the dugouts," Dmytro said. "She caught them all" within two months, he added. However, this wasn't the first time a stray has been helpful, he said. In 2014, Dmytro befriended a one-month-old puppy near the then-flashpoint town of Slavyansk. The dog soon became a "mini-talisman among his fellow soldiers," he said. Minutes before a bout of shelling began, he remembered, the dog hid. "We very quickly took the same measure as the dog," Dmytro recalled, adding that they "grabbed bulletproof vests, helmets" and "ran." The strays have been a particular boon for Ukrainian soldiers amid rising tensions this year, helping them relax and bringing respite to their daily routine.