FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Half of Rambo’s face was bloodied and damaged during a rocket assault in eastern Ukraine. The right side of his head had been severely damaged by shrapnel, and his survival was in question.
The 3-year-old German shepherd underwent emergency surgery that saved his life after he had accompanied Ukrainian soldiers to the front lines of the fighting. Now, Rambo serves as a role model for people and pets with special needs by training with the Budapest police force in neighbouring Hungary.
Lt. Col. Maria Stein of the Budapest Metropolitan Police said that Rambo, now recovered from his near-death experience in Ukraine’s Kharkiv area, is learning how to interact with children, seniors, and the disabled through police presentations and rehabilitation organisations.
According to Stein, demonstrating the work done by canine systems is part of the department’s crime prevention initiative, which aims to teach young people to be more accepting of one another and to value their differences.
“Today, sadly, it takes place that children make fun of each other because they use glasses, because they have braces, because their ears look amusing, or whatever,” she said. “With Rambo, we might be able to sensitise these kids a little and show them that, yes, he is hurt and he is different, but he can do the same things as other pet dogs,”
Rambo’s entry into law enforcement was not without its challenges. In 2015, he sustained injuries to his jaw and best ear from shrapnel from the rocket attack, which also injured some Ukrainian soldiers.
Rambo was sent to western Ukraine for security duty after undergoing initial surgery therapy. Hungarian rescue organisation founder Violetta Kovacs promptly rounded him up and transported him to a facility outside of Budapest for rehabilitation.
“The family dog needed immediate assistance,” Kovacs, director of the German Shepherd Breed Rescue Foundation, said. “We had to hit the ground running once more here in Hungary because the injury to several of his teeth was causing him extreme pain and required immediate attention.”
Rambo spent 8 months in the facility, during which time his jaw was rebuilt, his right ear was amputated, and many teeth were extracted. He was socialised with other dogs, Kovacs said, but his affection for children was obvious right away.
Lieutenant Colonel Gyula Desko of the Budapest Police Department later welcomed Rambo into the force, promising him additional training and a place to live.
He described Rambo as a “extremely friendly, good-natured canine” whose training had come a long way and whose survival was “a wonder.”
Rambo is “so open with people and accepts them, despite his injuries and the shock that befell him,” Desko said, but working with him “requires more perseverance and more attention” because of the unknown psychological concerns brought on by his brain damage.
Desko explained that the police want individuals who appease Rambo to display these traits in an effort to get the officer’s sympathy and approval.
“As a cops pet, one can translucent him that you can live a complete life even when hurt, and that you can be a beneficial member of society and do extremely varied things,” Desko said.