Welcome home, Sarbi, trusty dog of war

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Steve Meacham

SHE has her own Facebook page, a dedicated entry on Wikipedia, and is known – like so many celebrities – just by her first name. Surely, it can’t be long before Hollywood beckons?

The ”meet and greet” photo call in Canberra yesterday was the first time Sarbi – Australia’s very own ”hero dog” – had been seen in public with her handler, Sergeant D (his identity cannot be revealed) since they were separated in a bloody ambush in Afghanistan in November 2008.

In the same battle SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson won the first Victoria Cross to be awarded to an Australian since 1969.

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For the next 14 months there was no sign of the missing ”Explosives Detection Dog”. According to one report, there was a contingency plan to rescue her if she turned up in Taliban hands.

Finally the eight-year-old black labrador was spotted by a US soldier walking alongside a local man. Soon she was being flown to her Australian base in Tarin Kowt.

Since then she has been the subject of political controversy and ludicrous conspiracy theories. Did the then prime minister Kevin Rudd delay news of Sarbi’s happy reunion so he could announce it on Remembrance Day during a surprise trip to Afghanistan? Had the Defence Department reneged on a promise to return the dog to the Victorian family who said they had only lent her for five years? Had she been ”turned” by the Taliban during those missing 14 months? Should a runaway be made a hero for essentially going absent without leave?

Such questions were put aside as Sarbi returned to training. The official line by Defence is that a rocket exploded near Sergeant D, and the buckle attaching Sarbi to his body armour came away. ”Sergeant D was injured and unable to retrieve her. Sarbi probably got a bit disoriented with all the noise.”

So what does the future hold? ”When Sergeant D returns to work, he’ll make an assessment. She’ll either return as a working dog in Australia or will be retired to live with Sergeant D for the rest of her days,” the Defence spokesman said.

There is talk of Sarbi being awarded a medal and her portrait has been commissioned for the Australian War Memorial.

Source: www.smh.com.au