Monday, March 15, 2010

War Dog Wins Medal for Bravery

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The heroic nine-year-old black labrador twice averted catastrophe by seeking out rigged devices with his handler Sergeant Dave Heyhoe.
And today loyal Treo — who is now retired — was handed the highest honour for a military dog, the Dickin Medal, by animal charity PDSA.
Labrador Treo, a Army explosives search dog, now retired, who received the Dickin Medal, with his handler Sergeant Dave Heyhoe
Friends ... Treo with handler Sergeant Dave Heyhoe
Devoted Treo saw frontline action patrolling with soldiers in Sangin, Afghanistan, in 2008 — dashing into danger with his super-sensitive nose to sniff out deadly devices.
And his handler hailed the four-legged bomb detector at the special ceremony at the Imperial War Museum, London.
Sgt Heyhoe said: "Treo's work involves searching for arms and explosives out on the ground to the forefront of the troops.
"What we're trying to do is make sure there are no death-dealing agents out there to make sure there is no harm to the troops behind us.
"It's very important. We are part and parcel of the search element. We're not the ultimate answer but we are an aid to search.
"Another aid would be the metal detector - but Treo is a four-legged variety."
Treo and his handler have now returned to their former base 104 Military Working Dogs Support Unit, in North Luffenham, Rutland.
Sgt Heyhoe added: "Treo and I have been working together for the last five years.
"We started our time together in Northern Ireland, then moved to North Luffenham, where we then went out to Afghanistan in 2008."
On August 15 2008, Treo found a deadly "daisy chain" of IEDs that had been hidden at the side of a path.
And the gallant mut repeated the feat just one month later — saving more troops from death or injury.
Treo started his career at the Defence Animal Centre, based in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, when he was a year old.
He did 12 weeks training before going to Northern Ireland, where he worked for three years with his first handler before Sgt Heyhoe took over.
Doting Sgt Heyhoe said: "Basically, me and the dog have got to get a rapport. We've got to understand each other and without that we can't be effective on the ground.
"He must know when I want him to go somewhere to search, that's where he goes.
"Everyone will say that he is just a military working dog - yes, he is, but he is also a very good friend of mine. We look after each other."
Treo is the 63rd animal to receive the Dickin Medal — introduced by animal charity PDSA founder Maria Dickin in 1943 to honour the work of animals in war — and the 27th dog to receive the honour.
Since its introduction it has also been presented to 32 Second World War messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.
Sgt Heyhoe said the praise was symbolic for all dogs and their handlers working in warzones.
Major Chris Ham, officer commanding the Canine Division at the Defence Animal Centre, said dogs were playing an increasingly important role, particularly in Afghanistan.
He said: "It's being recognised more and more in this day and age that the key capability the armed explosives dog does have lies particularly in finding IEDs.
"They give a unique contribution to the troops on the ground searching for these devices on a daily basis.
"This medal is a unique honour for all of our dog handlers, particularly all the military working dogs and their handlers that are serving in Afghanistan."

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