CANBERRA – A bomb detection dog that spent a year lost in Afghanistan's Taliban heartland Tuesday became only the second Australian military animal to receive the country's most prestigious animal bravery award.
The black Labrador retriever called "Sarbi" was awarded the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' purple cross in Canberra, in a ceremony attended by Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie.
"I think there's no doubt that Sarbi has shown an incredible resilience and strength that should be recognised," RSPCA Australia national president Lynne Bradshaw said.
Sarbi, deployed to search for roadside bombs for Australia's Special Forces, went missing in September 2008 when Taliban militants ambushed Australian, US and Afghan forces in Uruzgan province.
Nine people, including her handler, were wounded in the fierce firefight.
The dog was recovered at a remote patrol base in northeastern Uruzgan more than a year later by a US soldier, and had apparently been well cared for during her time in the restive region.
War Memorial spokeswoman Carol Cartwright said Sarbi was only the second animal to get the award for war-related efforts, after the donkey "Murphy", which was used to ferry the wounded from the WWI battlefield of Gallipoli.
RSPCA Australia is a charity that works to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.