Dog Welcomes Home Soldier

November 14, 2009 by USA Post 

Sabi, an explosive detection dog , was reunited with her trainer at the Australian base Afghanistan

SABI_PIXEL_SIZE_385_644182aSpecial Forces units make a point of never leaving one of their own behind — and Australia’s Sabi is no exception.

The bomb-sniffing black labrador has been found after being declared missing in action, presumed dead, following a gun battle in Afghanistan 14 months ago.

Four-year-old Sabi was rescued by American soldiers in the remote mountains of Uruzgan province, deep inside Taleban territory in the south.

After more than a year of eluding the Taleban and living off her wits, Sabi received a celebrity welcome from General Stanley McChrystal, head of Nato troops, and Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister, who saw the dog during an overnight trip to visit his country’s servicemen.
“Sabi is back home in one piece and is a genuinely nice pooch as well,” Mr Rudd said. The labrador, on her second tour of duty in the country, is one of the few dogs lost in battle known to have returned.

Her trainer verified her identity by testing her with a familiar game. “I nudged a tennis ball to her with my foot and she took it straight away. It’s a game we used to play over and over during her training,” the handler said. “It’s amazing, just incredible, to have her back.”

Nine Australian soldiers — including Sabi’s handler — were wounded in the battle, which earned one of the Australian SAS troopers the highest bravery award.

Mark Donaldson won a Victoria Cross for deliberately and repeatedly drawing enemy fire so that his wounded comrades could be evacuated — and then running across 80 yards of open ground to rescue a wounded Afghan interpreter.

Once the dust cleared, there was no sign of Sabi, a dog trained to detect explosives. The troops later searched repeatedly around the ambush site, but assumed that the dog was dead.

Last week an American soldier — named only as John — spotted the dog close to an isolated outpost in the northwest of the province. Officials said he knew the Australians had lost a dog, and it matched her description so he called her towards him. “I took the dog and gave it some commands, and it understood,” he said.

Sabi was airlifted to the Australian headquarters in the provincial capital, Tarin Kowt. She was then reunited with the Army’s working dogs unit.

Army vets are testing the dog for diseases, but Brigadier Brian Dawson from the Australian Defence Force, said she appeared in good health despite living wild — suggesting that someone may have been feeding her. Pedigree dogs are prized for fighting in some parts of Afghanistan and can fetch prices of more than $2,000 (£1,200), it is reported.

Trooper Donaldson welcomed the news of the dog’s safe return. “She’s the last piece of the puzzle,” he said. “Having Sabi back gives some closure for the handler and the rest of us that served with her in 2008. It’s a fantastic morale booster for the guys.”

George Hulse, from the Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Association, said: “She’s been a fantastic dog and given us great service, and that she’s a survivor shows that she’s got the true Australian spirit.”

Trooper Donaldson’s medal citation described the firefight in which Sabi went missing as a “prolonged and effective enemy ambush” on September 2, 2008. It was the first time an Australian soldier had won a VC since the Vietnam War, 40 years ago.

“On numerous occasions he deliberately drew the enemy’s fire to allow wounded soldiers to be moved to safety,” the medal citation said. “As the battle raged around him he saw that a coalition force interpreter was lying motionless on exposed ground.

“With complete disregard for his own safety, and on his initiative and alone, Trooper Donaldson ran back 80 metres across exposed ground to rescue the interpreter and carry him back to vehicle. Trooper Donaldson then rejoined his patrol and continued to engage the enemy while remaining exposed to heavy enemy fire.”

British troops at Kajaki in northern Helmand have adopted two stray dogs who accompany them into battle, while troops in Iraq successfully campaigned to take a dog called Sandbag back to Britain after it was born on a UK camp and raised by British soldiers.

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