Local K9 and handler brave the cold on Ukrainian search and rescue mission

Making the Helderberg proud is K9 Chaos, pictured upon landing in Ukraine, where she will now put her extensive and specialised training to work to assist the Ukrainian Disaster Management Search and Rescue teams.

Local resident from Tre Donne in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, James Smart, from the Smart Tac Search and Rescue non-profit company and his K9 Chaos, are currently on a rescue mission to the Ukraine.

The purpose of the mission, says Mr Smart, who is there with his Smart Tac Search and Rescue non-profit company partner, Kerrin Kruger, from Constantia, is to do humanitarian K9 search, rescue, and recovery work for victims of the ongoing war in the City of Kyiv, Ukraine.

The team landed in Ukraine on Saturday November 16.

When speaking to Bolander from icy temperatures in Ukraine, he says the team and Chaos had settled well. In answer to what the emotions are like when landing in the city, he says: “We’re here to try and help, but there is a certain type of feeling at play in the back of your mind because you know it is a country at war, but we are based in Kyiv and it mostly is a normal functioning city, far away from the front lines.”

Chaos, a Malinois breed, says Mr Smart, is doing amazing after taking a couple of days to settle down after travelling abroad took them four days to finally arrive at their destination.

“She loves seeing the snow as its her first time seeing snow.” She has already gone out and trained with the rescue teams. “I’m proud to say that she is at an international level when it comes to search and rescue abilities. So, we’re very pleased about that.”

The Smart Tac Search and Rescue non-profit-company was started earlier this year in February.This is their first international deployment.

“This is our inaugural deployment,” Mr Smart says. He says K9 search and rescue capabilities can be of immense value in search and rescue operations.

“K9 speeds up the ability of rescue teams to perform search and rescue functions and we want to as Smart Tac be able to provide canine abilities where resources are stretched and where there is an urgent need for assistance.”

He normally works with both his rescue dogs, Jedi, and Chaos, but says it was thought to the best decision to only bring along Chaos on their first international rescue mission based on logistics, travel requirements, stressful and taxing nature of the travel on the canines, as Jedi is much older than Chaos.

“This is the first deployment we have done, but it’s also a discovery mission. It made more sense to us to bring Chaos along as she is the younger dog and to sort of prepare her for travel and rescue missions.

He foresees one of the challenges to be the extremely cold temperatures in the Ukraine. “It’s very cold and I think we in Africa are not well prepared for the cold. So, working in the cold will be taxing, yesterday we had gone out in -5- and -7-degree conditions.” Apart from the cold, the team is on a 24/7-hour standby for rescues, something which conjures up mixed emotions, says Mr Smart.

“We are here to do the work, but if we are deployed that means people have suffered and that is never something you want to see happen.”

This experienced Search and Rescue K9 handler and trainer in a message to his community, expressed gratitude for their assistance on getting them this far. “Everyone has been very supportive, and we are very grateful.”

It’s quite costly do embark on these K9 search and rescue operations with travel, accommodation, other expenses, so the team are raising funds consistently and have started a BackaBuddy online funding campaign to generate funds for their rescue work.

Go to www.backabuddy.co.za/ukraine-humanitarian-search-and-rescue to contribute or alternatively go to their website at smart-tac.com to aid their efforts.

The public can follow the team in Ukraine’s rescue work on his Facebook page at James Smart, or on Instagram @james_at_gracie

Furthermore, the Smart Tac Search and Rescue non-profit-company has the adopt-a-dog option, where multiple people can adopt the same K9 operative to cover the costs of their care.

The members of the Smart Tac Search and Rescue team James Smart, K9 Chaos, and Kerrin Kruger during a training session on site in Kyiv.
Second from left in black, are James Smart and Kerrin Kruger handlers and trainers from Smart Tac Canine Search Rescue and Recovery non-profit company with their dog, Chaos. Seen with them are members from Ukraine’s Disaster Management Search and Rescue.