Military Working Dog Search Dog Canine Afghanistan Defence Imagery British Army 2011

Good Doggos: Celebrating Brave Military Working Dogs

We don't deserve dogs sure, but we REALLY don't deserve military working dogs.

Military Working Dog Search Dog Canine Afghanistan Defence Imagery British Army 2011

Comedian Ricky Gervais frequently says we don’t deserve dogs. We don’t. Good doggos are loyal, goofy and full to the brim of unconditional love. 

But, if we don’t deserve civilian dogs, then we really don’t deserve military working dogs. Those puppers are fearless and have saved lives. 

Need we say more? No, but we are going to show you lots of good boy photos because we could all do with a bit more joy am I right?

The First Search And Rescue Dog

Man's best friend turns life-saver in the armed forces when placed in challenging and hostile environments. Dogs like Rip, pictured below, tirelessly spent their days searching for bodies trapped after air raids during the Second World War.

Rip was discovered by an Air Raid Warden, hungry and homeless. Because of his natural talent for finding survivors trapped under collapsed buildings, he became the Air Raid Patrols first ‘official’ Search and Rescue dog.

Air Raid Precautions Dog Rip Poplar London 5 August 1941 IWM D 5937 Public Domain
© IWM (D 5937)

The Strong Bond Between Handler And Dog

Together, LCpl Liam Tasker and his devoted dog Theo set a record for the most confirmed improvised explosive device (IED) finds ever. In just five months they uncovered 14 Taliban roadside bombs and hidden weapons. 

On one occasion, the brave pair discovered an underground tunnel leading to a room in which insurgents were suspected of making bombs and hiding from coalition forces.

Sadly, their incredible teamwork came to an end on March 1, 2011, when 26-year-old Lance Corporal Tasker was shot by insurgents while on patrol and died of his injuries.

Just hours later, Theo died after suffering a seizure.

LCpl Liam Tasker Theo Royal Army Veterinary Corps Afghanistan Credit MOD
Credit: MOD

Theo was posthumously awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for his heroic actions on 25 October 2012. His citation stated:

“Without doubt, Theo’s actions and devotion to his duties, while in the throes of conflict, saved many lives.”

The medal is the highest award any animal can receive for life-saving bravery in conflict.

Theo’s ashes accompanied his handler’s coffin when they were repatriated, and the pair were laid to rest together in Scotland.

Luckiest Labrador In Leicestershire?

In 2014, Labrador JJ was recognised for his amazing recovery following life-threatening injuries.  

JJ served three tours of Afghanistan. His job was to hunt out deadly improvised explosive devices. 

While searching a compound, JJ fell 60 feet down a well, suffering life-threatening injuries. 

JJ’s first handler Corporal Phil Corlett, who he now lives with, explained his injuries to Forces News’ reporter Simon Newton. He said: 

“... he fractured his spine, very nearly damaging his spinal column. He burst his spleen, he damaged his lungs, he broke a few ribs as well. He was in a bad way. 

“I don’t think many people held out a lot of hope for him surviving but due to the brilliant care both in Camp Bastion and here he pulled through.”

After being pulled out from the well, JJ was rushed back to Camp Bastion for emergency surgery. 

Eventually, he was brought back to the Defence Animal Centre at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire where he underwent months of intense treatment which included physio and hydrotherapy. 

JJ's exceptional courage was recognised by pet charity Blue Cross in 2014 when he was chosen as one of three runners up out of 70 nominations nationwide for the Blue Cross Medal. 

The charity highly commended him for his remarkable recovery.

Tirelessly Brave And Devoted

Belgian Malinois Mali may not be able to talk, but his war stories could fill a room. He served two tours of Afghanistan with actions which undoubtedly helped save the lives of British troops.

Mali is credited with saving the lives of British and Afghan Special Forces in 2012 during a seven and a half hour operation against an enemy stronghold in the Afghanistan capital Kabul.

In 2017, the courageous canine became the 69th recipient of a PDSA Dickin Medal. Mali's handler during the operation said:

“It was a five-story, six-story building. There was IED's in there, a lot of explosives kicking around.

"I was called to send Mali up for him to search out a safe route for us and he indicated to me that there was explosives up there.

"So again, it stopped the guys that I was working with from using that route. Otherwise, if they had got up there people would have lost arms and legs and inevitably their lives.”

Mali was seriously injured during the operation by three grenade blasts. His Dickin Medal citation reads:

“For tireless bravery and devotion to duty during an operation in Afghanistan with the British Military in 2012."

Now semi-retired Mali helping with training at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray.

VIDEO: Contains Flash Photography

Treo And Dave, Always Together

Treo was an Arms and Explosives Search dog for the Royal Army Veterinary Corps who, with his handler Sergeant Dave Heyhoe, spent his days sniffing out explosives.

While out in Afghanistan with Dave in August 2008, Treo discovered a ‘daisy chain’ improvised explosive device which had been designed to trigger a series of bombs on a roadside where soldiers were about to pass. Treo’s actions on that day inevitably saved soldiers' lives and prevented life-changing injuries. 

Less than two years later on February 24, 2010 Treo became the 63rd recipient of the Dickins Medal for his bravery. His citation reads: 

“Without doubt, Treo’s actions and devotion to his duties, while in the throes of conflict, saved many lives.” 

After Treo’s bravery was recognised, Dave released “It’s All About Treo: Life, Love And War With The World’s Bravest Dog”, a book describing 'the unbreakable bond forged between Treo, the world's most highly decorated dog, and his handler Sgt. Dave Heyhoe, whilst doing the most dangerous job on earth’. 

The pair settled into retirement until sadly Treo died. Dave found it difficult to come to terms with his loss and thankfully discovered a unique and incredibly personal way to keep Treo by his side for life. He said: 

“For two weeks after, all I ever did all day was sit talking to him. People must have thought I was mad because I was talking to nothing but I wasn’t, I was talking to my boy. 

“It was one of those things where I thought OK, I do miss him, I need to feel as though he’s part of me so let's get this …  tattoo done so that he does feel part of me again.” 

The tattoo features Treo’s paw print and Dickin Medal number alongside an inscription but it’s unlike any ‘normal’ tattoo. 

The pigment is part normal ink and part Treo’s ashes. Dave said: 

“He‘s always with me now.” 

Hero Hounds: The Training Behind Military Working Dogs

When British combat operations in Afghanistan came to a close in 2014, the role of the military working dog (MWD) changed.

In the special report below, originally aired in 2015, Forces TV met the dogs helping to keep our British soldiers safe.

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