The Ukrainian Deployment – Week 2 & 3

 During weeks two and three of our deployment to Ukraine, we focused on more training and preparation. As we mentioned in our last update, we had mixed emotions about not having any missions. While we were eager to help those in need, we were relieved that no one required our assistance.

Working with a search and rescue dog, or any working dog, requires ongoing training and appropriate challenges to ensure continuous progress. During our first session with the SES team, our dog Chaos was challenged with two odors (live person and HR) in the same area. Despite just having traveled for four days and being asked to climb a 2.5-meter-high ladder, Chaos performed exceptionally well.

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In weeks two and three, we conducted Chaos’ training in a basement environment while increasing the difficulty level.

We took her into a pitch-dark basement to find a live person, worked past HR odor using her trained search commands, extracted the live person, and then returned to alert on the HR, during the basement environment training. We noticed that the dog’s instinct was to look and smell up the wall opposite to where the living person was.

We guided her back to the live person the first time she did this, but she solved the puzzle the second time. After discussing this with the team, we concluded that the body heat rises and takes the odor up the wall in a cold environment; crossing the ceiling, it loses heat and falls on the far wall. This differs from a hot climate, where the odor falls almost immediately due to the warm outside temperature, and the cooling air takes the odor with it.

We had some great discussions about training the SAR K9s, the IRO (International Rescue Dog Organisation), INSARAG (International Search and Rescue Advisory Group) memberships and certifications and up-skilling ourselves to be even more helpful in Search and Rescue operations in the future.

Regarding the war, most days, we have had an Air Alert warning of a potential threat. It was odd to have an app on your iPhone that beeps at night to alert you of a possible air attack. Only one night, the most significant air attack since the start of the war happened. There were around 75 drones, most of which were shot down, and the rest only caused minor damage. We watched the air defense system make short work of stopping the drones, with searchlights and tracers lighting up the sky and the loud buzzing of drones overhead. The attack lasted a few hours, making the following day seem quite long.

We talked about whether to approach the front line to offer assistance, but car rental companies refused to rent vehicles for that purpose. Also, we had committed to the SES. We would have been mortified if we had driven 500 km only to find out we were needed in a heavily populated area back where we started. So, caught between our mission to help, our feeling of not living up to the expectation of our support, and our commitment to Ukraine Disaster teams, we stayed put.

At the end of week three, it was time to start preparing for the long journey home. We were thrilled to have been able to go to Ukraine and grateful to our supporters and hosts for their hospitality. This training has helped us become a better SAR team and more helpful in other situations in the future. We were also delighted that the people of Ukraine didn’t need our services. At the same time, we have an underlying feeling of not having done what we came to do.

We are always prepared and enthusiastic to serve others wherever and whenever needed. However, we require financial resources to support our current and future deployments. Therefore, please share this message with your network and consider donating to our Backabuddy campaign ( so that we can continue assisting whenever required.

Your generous donation is making a difference! By supporting Smart-Tac K9 Search Rescue and Recovery, you enable us to help civilians affected by natural disasters, wars, or humanitarian crises. Your donation is critical in allowing us to train our team and be ready to serve those in need. You have the power to change lives and positively impact our world. We appreciate your support!