Bodyguard and mate for Kiwi soldiers

Last updated 08:55 06/05/2008
NZ Defence Force
AFGHAN HOUND: Gunner, with Major Syd Dewes, has become a favourite with Kiwi troops at a patrol base in Afghanistan. The two-year-old sleeps on snow.
New Zealand Defence Force
OUR BUDDY: KT1 dog Gunner, with Major Syd Dewes.

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Kiwi troops in Afghanistan have been bowled over in more ways than one by a handsome dog who has become mascot, guard and pet at one of their patrol bases.

Gunner has won the hearts of soldiers operating out of Nayak, about four hours' drive west of the main Kiwi base in Bamian.

Major Syd Dewes, who returned last week after six months in Afghanistan, said Gunner was big, tough, and not for pampering.

He was nothing like the Afghan hounds that New Zealanders would recognise – there's no such thing as pedigree in Afghanistan. He is like a cross between a German shepherd and a husky.

"This dog was born for the snow and the sheer joy on his face when snow arrived – it was a sight to see." If the snow was piled he would dive into burrows made for him but most of the time he would just sleep on it regardless of the temperatures, which regularly got down to minus 30 degrees celsius, Major Dewes said.

He would use his kennel only when it rained.

Gunner was a great guard dog, who would kick up a fuss if anybody came around the base, and would snap at the ankles of strangers.

But he was also a real character. "He gets so excited to have you around that it makes going back to the base a pleasure.

"Whenever we had been away from the patrol base for a few days, upon our return he would be like a child seeing his dad return home."

Gunner was so big and heavy that the unwary would be knocked over by him.

Major Dewes said Gunner was a pup when he was given by local businessman Mohammad Amin two years ago.

Major Dewes is sending over some worm and flea tablets to make sure the new troops at the base continue to look after Gunner.

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- The Dominion Post

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