Army dog Sasha to get medal for Afghan military work
A military working dog named Sasha, who died while on patrol in Afghanistan, is to be honoured with a medal.
She will receive the PDSA Dickin Medal posthumously at a ceremony in May.
She died alongside her handler, L/Cpl Kenneth Rowe, who was originally from Newcastle, in July 2008 after they were ambushed on patrol in Kandahar.
"Kenneth always adored animals and loved working with his dogs," said L/Cpl Rowe's mother, Lyn Rowe, after hearing the news.
"He took his role protecting his fellow solders very seriously.
"We are so proud of him, and he would be incredibly proud that Sasha's bravery is being recognised with the PDSA Dickin Medal."
Sasha will be the 65th recipient of the award, which is the highest honour any animal can receive for serving in a military conflict.
"This prestigious award recognises how her devotion and skills undoubtedly saved the lives of many troops in Afghanistan, and acknowledges the excellent work our military working dogs and their handlers do," said Colonel Neil Smith QHVS, the director of the Army Veterinary and Remount Services.
"Sadly this award is posthumous as both Sasha and her handler L/Cpl Ken Rowe were killed in enemy action in Afghanistan in 2008.
"Our thoughts remain with L/Cpl Rowe's family and this award will give us the opportunity to once more celebrate his and Sasha's immeasurable contributions to military operations."
The four-year-old yellow Labrador's main role was to search for explosives and weapons on patrol in Afghanistan.
She was first deployed with handler Sgt Andy Dodds of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps attached to the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.
Together they searched for bomb-making equipment, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and hidden weapons.
During her time as a military working dog, Sasha made 15 confirmed operational finds.
The PDSA said her actions saved many soldiers and innocent civilians from death and serious injury.
Sasha and L/Cpl Rowe were considered the best handler and dog team in the region.
On 24 July 2008 they were coming back from a routine search operation when their patrol was ambushed. They survived the first attack but were killed in a second one.
Jan McLoughlin of the PDSA said: "The award is even more poignant as we approach the centenary of World War One and are reminded of the huge debt we owe the animals who serve in times of conflict.
"Sasha's exceptional devotion to duty in Afghanistan saved many lives, both soldiers and civilians.
"This medal, recognised worldwide as the animals' Victoria Cross, honours both Sasha's unwavering service and her ultimate sacrifice."
Since the introduction of the medal in 1943, it has been awarded to 29 dogs (including Sasha), 32 World War II messenger pigeons, three horses and a cat.