When there’s a crisis at hand, some people sit back and do nothing, while others run into the fire. There have been many brave volunteers across the globe running into the proverbial (and sometimes literal) fire following the Russian invasion of Ukraine – and their dogs are there helping too, right at their sides. Dogs don’t just make good pets, they make great heroes. 

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Irish former solider Paidraig O’Keeffe is one such man, and his dog Cooper, a Labrador retriever, is one such dog. They have headed to Ukraine to help with search and rescue where they will search for bodies buried under collapsed buildings. It might sound morbid, but O’Keeffe says that finding bodies helps give a peace of mind to their loved ones. “It is so important to get people back to their families,” O’Keeffe explained. 

Cooper and Paidraig: Irish Examiner

O’Keeffe said that Cooper has “incredible potential and ability to help in Ukraine”. O’Keeffe has been training Cooper to help him with his work, putting him in situations that will do the most good. “Cooper has been working off packs which contain human hair, human teeth, and blood. His training is full on at the moment. Cooper has got superpowers. Their sense of smell is a superpower,” said O’Keeffe. 

This isn’t O’Keeffe’s first time working with dogs in this capacity. O’Keeffe worked with his previous dog, Mambo for 10 years. After nine successful recoveries, Mambo retired in 2020. Then came Cooper. 

O’Keeffe found Cooper in Athens, Greece during the pandemic. O’Keeffe trained with Cooper for several months, and took Cooper with him back with him to Ireland at the end of 2020. 

Cooper is ready for action: Irish Examiner

O’Keefe, who is from Cork in Ireland, joined the French Legion at 20, and has worked in private security in countries like Iraq, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. In Haiti, O’Keeffe was introduced to urban search and rescue (USAR) dogs. 

O’Keeffe felt compelled to help, feeling there was something he could do because he’s ex-military. “My background would be urban search and rescue which would be more disaster response. Cooper has a solid foundation in urban search and rescue. When the war in Ukraine started, I sensed there was something we could do to help,” O’Keeffe said.

O’Keeffe will also be taking medicine to Kyiv. O’Keeffe has set up a GoFundMe, which has raised over €10,000 so far, with a target of €20,000. He says he’s in no hurry to get back home because he loves helping others. 

We wish O’Keeffe and Cooper a successful and safe trip in Ukraine. While it can be difficult to process, there’s nothing like closure when a loved one goes missing, and we hope that O’Keeffe and Cooper will help give it to those who need it most.

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