Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sarbi and Horrie: Two Brave Dogs

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.
Sunday, 10 April 2011 Posted by Eric Shackle at 20:16

Sarbi the Bomb Sniffer has saved many lives on both sides of the war in Afghanistan, and

Horrie the Wog Dog probably saved many lives in Egypt in the second world war.

Sarbi received an award for bravery at a formal ceremony at the Austalian National War Memorial in Canberra last week.

RSPCA president Lynne Bradshaw presented Sarbi, who went missing in action in Afghanistan for 13 months, with the medal at a ceremony attended by Chief of the Army Lieutenant-General Ken Gillespie.

"I think there is no doubt that Sarbi has shown an incredible strength and resilience that should be recognised," Ms Bradshaw said.

Sporting a new coat in the bright green of her Special Forces unit and with two campaign medals pinned to her side, Sarbi was presented with her Purple Cross in front of the Animals in War Memorial at the Canberra Australian War Memorial.

The labrador's adventure began back in 2008 when she was separated from her handler in a battle that left nine soldiers wounded.

The story made headlines around the world.

In London, in 2009, The Guardian reported

A highly trained Australian special forces combatant who disappeared during a firefight in Afghanistan has been found safe, well and waggy-tailed after surviving for more than a year in the desert.

Sabi, an expert in detecting improvised explosive devices who also happens to be a four-year-old black labrador, went missing 14 months ago during a battle in which nine Australian soldiers, including her handler, were wounded. Months of searching revealed nothing and the dog, on her second tour of Afghanistan, was officially listed as missing in action.

Last week, however, a US serviceman known only as John spotted Sabi wandering in a remote area of the southern province of Oruzgan and, knowing his Australian counterparts had lost a bomb-sniffing dog, tried out some commands to which, Lassie-style, the labrador responded.

Back at Tarin Kowt base, Sabi was a little grizzled but otherwise unharmed. Her trainer checked she really was Sabi by means of the tennis ball test: he nudged a ball to her; she picked it up. "It's amazing, just incredible, to have her back," the trainer said.

Australia's prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who was coincidentally visiting his country's troops during a brief visit to Afghanistan, posed for photographs petting the dog, alongside US General Stanley McChrystal, overall commander of the US and Nato missions to Afghanistan. Rudd declared Sabi "a genuinely nice pooch".

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Sabi showed no signs of stress after her ordeal and greeted strangers "with a sniff and a lick".

It is not known whether the dog spent the past 14 months eluding Taliban forces in the area, as befits a special forces combatant, or whether she was captured and held as a prisoner of war, but the fact that she was in good condition when found suggested she had been well looked after, military spokesman Brigadier Brian Dawson, told reporters in Canberra.

She is now being tested for disease, with a view to returning to Australia, although Rudd suggested that passing quarantine tests "might be the greatest challenge".

Trooper Mark Donaldson was awarded a Victoria Cross for his part in the battle in which Sabi disappeared in September 2008, when a joint Australian-Afghan patrol was ambushed. He declared her return "the last piece of the puzzle.

"Having Sabi back gives some closure for the handler and the rest of us [who] served with her in 2008. It's a fantastic morale booster for the guys," he said.

Horrie the Wog Dog was owned by a WWII digger, Jim Moody. His cousin, Neil Moody, was a colleague of mine on the staff of the Sydney Daily Telegraph in the 1930s.
And here's the Australian National War Memorial's tribute to Horrie:

Early in 1941, Private Jim Moody, VX13091, 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion found a puppy in the Ikingi Mariut area of the Western Desert, Egypt. He became the unofficial mascot of the battalion, travelling with it from Egypt to Greece, Crete, Palestine and Syria then back to Australia in 1942.

Horrie was intelligent and easily trained. He acted as a guard dog and many times gave early warning of the approach of enemy aircraft. He survived the sinking of the Costa Rica on which the unit was being evacuated from Greece to Crete, wounding by a bomb splinter in Crete and the effects of the severe cold in Syria.

Ion Idriess, in his book Horrie the wog-dog: with the A.I.F. in Egypt, Greece, Crete and Palestinepublished in 1948, related the entertaining story of Horrie written from the diary of Jim Moody. Horrie is also mentioned briefly in the book The long carry: a history of the 2/1 Australian Machine Gun Battalion 1939-46 by Philip Hocking and published by the 2/1 Machine Gun Battalion Association in 1997.

The Memorial has on display Horrie's uniform shown in the photograph as well as Horrie's travelling pack. This pack, lined with wood and with slits cut in the back for ventilation, was used to smuggle Horrie back to Australia in 1942.

Here he survived for three years before being discovered by Quarantine officials after being exhibited in a Red Cross charity appeal. Following Quarantine Regulations Moody was ordered to surrender Horrie to be shot.

Instead he found a look-alike dog at the pound and surrendered it. This dog was duly shot and Horrie was sent to live out his life near Corryong, Victoria.

Horrie wearing his uniform in Syria
Horrie in Syria. He is shown in his uniform
provided to give protection from the cold.
AWM 076877
Let's put aside sentimental thoughts about Sarbi and Horrie, and reflect
on this:
Are dogs truly brave, or do they merely respond obedientlyto the commands of their very brave handlers?
Click on Eric Shackle for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

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