>Anti-tank dogs were employed by the Russians in WWII to combat those pesky German Panzer tanks, which were just too damned fast to combat. The dogs were systematically starved, then trained to fetch food from underneath tanks. Explosives were strapped to the dogs’ backs, and when they went under the vehicles, a small wooden lever attached to the explosive packs would depress, causing significant damage to the exposed underside of the Panzer (and even more significant damage to the dog). It is estimated that the trained dogs took out at least 300 German tanks.

What is less well-known, however, is that many of these anti-tank dogs did not always do what they were supposed to. There are numerous instances of the dogs simply turning around, content to seek food under Russian tanks, and, in turn, blowing up their masters. The anti-tank dogs were officially retired at the end of 1942.

Unofficially, there are a few notable instances of these dogs turning up well into the late 1940s. One such dog, known only as испаряющая шерсть (roughly translated: volatile fur), fell into the hands of a family in the western Russian city of Belgorod. The family’s youngest son, Gregor Polikanov, was reported to have found the dog wandering in some woods near the family home. Luckily for all parties concerned, Gregor Polikanov was of a particularly standoffish disposition, and was certainly not the type of young boy to run up and hug a strange dog, least of all one nearly starved with a suspicious wooden box attached to its back.

The dog followed Gregor home, and Gregor didn’t really care much about this one way or the other, as he was the sort of boy who took little notice of things that didn’t concern food or marbles. Gregor’s father, Ivan Polikanov, welcomed the dog by patting him on the head. Ivan also was not the sort of man to put his arm around a dog, even one his usually antisocial son had seemed to take a shine to. Even more luckily, the entire Polikanov family were abnormally tall, and as such, their tables and beds were constructed as to be unusually high off the ground.

As can be imagined, the dog maintained a fairly successful life with the tall-tabled, socially inept Polikanovs, until one fateful day when the mayor, Igor Klosov, dropped in to see if he could count on the Polikanovs’ vote in his upcoming re-election. They mayor, a man whose politicking skills were honed to a fine point, never missed a chance to kiss a baby, shake a firm hand or pet a beloved family pet. He, of course, misinterpreted the wooden box on the dog’s back as some sort of peasant potato-harvest accessory (these were desperate people, after all, he thought, who could not afford a strong ox to plough their fields). Moreover, when he saw the lever attached to the dog’s box, his voting-day instincts kicked in and, while leaning over and thinking Vote One Igor Konstantine Klosov! he pulled heartily on the lever.

A local postal worker happened across the sad scene some days later. The remains of the Polikanov house consisted of one chimney, pointing sadly at the sky. The postal worker kicked among the remains until he spied the obtrusive glint of Mayor Klosov’s official badge, dinted, burnished, but still intact. The postal worked shook his head. He muttered to himself, будет эт мы ые для?, which, roughly translated, means, Is this what we fought for?


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