25 September 2023

Heroic Army dog laps up honour

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An Australian Army working dog has been awarded a medal for conspicuous gallantry.

The dog, called Kuga, was honoured with the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Dickin Medal posthumously during a ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.

Kuga (pictured with special operations soldier Sergeant ‘J’ in Afghanistan) served with the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) from 2008 and was recognised for his actions during a Special Operations Task Group patrol in Uruzgan Province on 26 August 2011.

During the patrol, Kuga alerted his handler to an enemy presence ahead. On being released by his handler to investigate, Kuga crossed a river to expose an enemy ambush position, drawing small arms and heavy machine-gun fire.

Despite being shot five times during the action, Kuga continued to engage the enemy until being recalled by his handler.

Kuga was evacuated by helicopter and treated at a number of coalition medical facilities in Afghanistan and Germany. He died in Australia in 2012, most likely as a result of stress and physical trauma associated with his wounds.

He was nominated for the Dickin Medal by the soldiers of that Special Operations Task Group patrol for his extraordinary courage and dedication preventing them from entering into an enemy ambush.

Trustee of the PDSA, Mary Reilly, who presented the medal, said if it was not for Kuga’s actions that day, his handler and the Special Operations Task Group patrol would have walked into the enemy ambush, with potentially devastating loss of life.

“Kuga stood up to the enemy without fear and is a thoroughly deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal,” Ms Reilly said.

Kuga, a Belgian Malinois breed, is the first Australian dog and the first Australian animal since World War II to be awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal.

The medal was created in 1943 to honour the work of animals in war and has been awarded to 71 individual animals, including two Australian carrier pigeons in World War II.

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