Bomb-sniffing dog fetches medal
A perky British Labrador, whose bomb-sniffing exploits helped save lives in Afghanistan, has been decorated for canine courage in a ceremony at London's Imperial War Museum.
Eight-year-old Treo joins a menagerie of heroic animals honoured over the years with a special award known as the Dickin medal, including 32 pigeons, three horses and a cat.
Sgt Dave Heyhoe, the black Lab's handler, said he was "very proud indeed," adding the award was not just for him and his dog but "for every dog and handler that's working out in Afghanistan or Iraq."
Treo merely flicked out his rosy tongue as he and Heyhoe posed for photographs with the silvery medal. He squirmed as the medal was fitted around his neck.
The military nominated Treo for the prize in recognition of his help uncovering a series of Taliban bombs during his time serving in Helmand Province, an insurgency hot spot, in 2008.
The Labrador is the medal's 63rd recipient since its inception in 1943, according to the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals, the charity that awards the prize.
Man's best friend has won a big share of the medals, including a collie named Rob who joined British commandos in repeated parachute operations behind enemy lines during World War II.
More recently, Sadie, another bomb-sniffing dog, was awarded the Dickin medal for helping to alert coalition forces to an explosive hidden under sandbags in Kabul in 2005.
Other animals, notably carrier pigeons used in World War II, have bagged honours as well.
Countries from Australia to Hungary occasionally honour exceptionally brave animals with medals in a variety of contexts.
There's no equivalent to the Dickin medal in the United States, although military animals have been honoured with medals or memorials on an unofficial, ad hoc basis.
The most famous US recipient, a World War I mutt named Sgt Stubby, served in 17 battles, was wounded in a grenade attack and survived several gassings. Between locating wounded Allied soldiers in the trenches, he even managed to help nab a German spy.
Stubby, now stuffed and on display at the Smithsonian, was awarded several medals, including a Purple Heart, and the canine was made a lifetime member of the American Legion.
But the practice of giving medals to animals was eventually abandoned by the U.S. military on the ground that the practice risks devaluing the awards given to soldiers.
Lisa Nickless, a spokeswoman for the animal charity, said no one had raised any such concerns about Treo.
"He saved human life," she said.