Close this search box.
Close this search box.
a belgian malinois walking close to its owner in an open field

Dog Days Aren’t All Bad, Furry Hero Heads To Ukraine

Meet Torch, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois trained by Gull Lake-based K9

They say the Russian invasion of Ukrainian has entered the dog days. They weren’t kidding. 

As Ukrainian forces take back territory from the Russians, Torch, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, is heading to Ukraine in September to lend a helping paw. The professionally trained explosives detection dog will use his skills to locate landmines and unexploded bombs in the conflict zone. 

Torch was trained by Gull Lake-based Alberta K9, a company specializing in training dogs for roles in policing. This includes personal protection, private security, and, of course, explosives detection.

Usually, Torch’s services could fetch as high as $25,000. Instead, he will be heading to Ukraine for free, thanks to Firefighter Aid Ukraine (FAU), an Edmonton-based charity that offers equipment, donations, and training to first responders in Ukraine. 

To get Torch and his team overseas to Kyiv, the charity raised about $80,000. While Ukraine has working dogs, the program was created before the war started. 

torch staring at the camera with with tongue hanging out of his mouth with a chain fence in the background
Torch, an explosives detection dog, posing handsomely for the camera | Alberta K9 | Red Deer Advocate

So when the conflict began in 2022, the program was unprepared for the number of landmines and unexploded bombs. According to Kevin Royle, the director of FAU, Torch’s impact will be felt immediately.

“This dog is going to help solve a lot of problems…It affects their economy, security, and, obviously public safety. And it’s estimated that for every year of conflict, you’re looking at ten years of de-mining,” Royle told CBC News.

Royle points out that Torch is one of the more unique donations the charity has sent to Ukraine. 

“We’ve shipped over really high-value equipment like X-ray machines and anesthesiologist machines…But to be able to ship over something like this, that is so so specialized…It’s pretty incredible,” he expressed.

Torch comes from a litter of pups born with a nose for policing. In 2021, Marshall, one of Torch’s littermates, began working as an ignitable liquids detection dog for Edmonton Fire Rescue Services. 

Torch wasn’t as quick to leave the litter, but Matt LaPointe and his wife Kelsey LaPointe, who own Alberta K9, knew the pup had big potential and an even bigger personality. 

The couple decided to train Torch in explosives detection when the war began in Ukraine. The skilled animal is trained in both English and hand commands. 

Torch has also learned to back away from explosives he discovers to avoid setting off the device. Unlike most dogs, the pup prefers to be rewarded with toys, not treats. 

Torch will be the first specially-trained K9 dog to go beyond North America. But Matt, who is Métis, highlights the importance of being able to help local communities as well.

This includes helping Indigenous communities manage drug and alcohol crises by providing them with detection dogs. 

It sounds like the K9 owners are pitching in where they can.

Share this story

Stories in your Inbox, daily or weekly

Choose the types of stories you receive.

Related Stories