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He chewed off a paw to get back to his own: the story of the dog Vasia

The dog Vasia, who has been serving in Donbass since 2016 and is no longer alive, once chewed off his own paw to get out of an enemy trap. This caused a wave of discussion in the Ukrainian media and among the public. People doubt that this could have really happened. Here is the evidence why this is most likely a true story, confirmed by the testimony of the military and experts, although some details may be artistic speculation.

Dozens of Ukrainian media outlets reported the death of Vasia, a dog who had been serving in Donbas since 2016. Journalists recalled, “He once chewed off a paw to avoid being captured.” 

Some of our readers found this information questionable. “For a dog to chew off a paw? It can’t be possible!” they wondered. 

So, we set out to uncover the truth.

It happened back in November 2021. A dog named Vasia served with the Ukrainian military in the Donbas. One day he disappeared. The marines used reconnaissance drones to search for him. Later, Vasia was found; it seems he had been trapped near the demarcation line. 

“Vasia got so tangled in the barbed wire that his neck was even stretched out,” recalls Vasia’s owner, Anastasiia Zaverukha. “He probably tried to break free with his paws. Initially, the marines used a drone to assess the situation and even planned a rescue mission. One man wanted to go alone, but his comrades insisted, ‘Where are you going? We’ll follow you.’ But Vasia returned alone. He chewed off one of his paws and crawled back to his friends; his neck was also torn.” 

A few months later, Ukrainian soldier Olena Bilozerska shared the story on Facebook: 

“Vaska came back. He chewed off a paw and returned on three legs. He didn’t want to stay in captivity.” 

This version of events quickly spread across numerous media outlets. 

On June 6, 2024, news of Vasia’s death was reported by Katarzyna Zamierowska from the Cane Corso Without Borders Foundation, which had taken care of him. 

“Our war veteran in Ukraine lost his fight against a serious illness. He was brave, beautiful, and proud. A hero dog who, while fighting at the front, was ambushed by the enemy. To return to his post, he bit off his paw. We helped Vasia get a prosthetic leg in Poland to honor his courage. He will always be in our hearts…” she said

Again, this story about a dog biting off his paw. Obviously, no one saw it with their own eyes. Therefore, what remains for us is too explain how typical this is for animal behavior. Could the dog really have chewed off his own paw? 

To understand, we consulted Mariana Shkvyra, a zoologist specializing in the ecology and behavior of large carnivores. 

“In principle, this is normal. It’s not very common for dogs, but for wolves, foxes, and coyotes, it is. If tissue necrosis has begun due to injury, frostbite, etc., this can provoke such behavior. There are also diseases and other factors that provoke this, but that’s another story. So, yes, it can happen,” she explained.

So, it appears that the story, which some had dismissed as a heroic legend, is almost certainly true. However, the dog’s motives “to avoid being captured” are likely more artistic speculation than fact small logo

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Halyna Dolynna
Halyna Dolynna
editor of the English texts
01 / 01