Dogs have long been used as part of the armed forces, bravely fighting alongside the men and women in uniform to keep the world safe.
Like any other soldier, these dogs willingly put their lives on the line in each mission, sometimes at great personal cost.
It can be a thankless job, but recently one heroic dog received a major military honor for his service and sacrifices.
The PDSA Dickin Medal is an award presented to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, described as the “highest award any animal can receive whilst serving in military conflict.”
It is considered the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, the highest military honor in the UK.
The most recent recipient of the award is a Belgian Shepherd Malinois named Kuno. Kuno was trained as a Military Working Dog, and after proving to be a very capable soldier, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2019.
His duties were to detect explosives, find hidden weapons and incapacitate enemy soldiers, the PDSA writes. He did his job valiantly, leading troops through many dangerous conflicts.
The dog’s defining moment came during a raid last May. Kuno led troops through an enemy compound, even as they faced heavy enemy fire.
One enemy insurgent fired a machine gun at the British soldiers, hidden in the dark. It was up to Kuno to stop the shooter and save their lives.
Kuno charged the attacker, taking him by surprise. The shooter blindly fired at the dog, shooting him in the hind legs. But Kuno didn’t let go, hanging on to the insurgent and allowing the assault force to neutralize enemy forces.
“Without Kuno, the course of this operation could have been very different, and it’s clear he saved the lives of British personnel that day,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC.
“This particular raid was one of the most significant achievements against al Qaeda in several years.
But while Kuno was the hero of that day, he suffered severe injuries. Soldiers performed first aid, and he was rushed into surgery.
Kuno sustained irreparable damage to his rear paw. Vets had to amputate to prevent an infection, according to the BBC. A bullet had just missed his main artery, miraculously sparing his life.
But this wasn’t the end for Kuno. He received a custom-fit prosthetic paw, the first UK military dog to get one.
Kuno began his next battle, undergoing months of physical therapy to learn how to walk again, adjusting to his prosthetic paw and leg brace.
But now, Kuno is back on his feet, happily enjoying a well-earned retirement from military service.
Kuno was honored with the Dickin Medal on November 24. He is the 72nd animal to receive the honor since it was first given in 1943.
The PDSA writes he received the award “for tireless bravery and devotion to duty during an operation in Afghanistan with the British Military in 2019.”
As part of a virtual ceremony, Colonel Mark Morrison accepted the award on Kuno’s behalf.
“It’s a tremendous privelege to be receiving this on behalf of Kuno and all those who supported him right from the beginning, through his period of operations, and all the way through his recovery.
“It’s wonderful to see him here today in such good form, so bright, so enthusiastic about life.”
He also stated he was accepting it on behalf of all Military Working Animals who continue to support the troops overseas.
Congratulations, Kuno, on this incredible and well-deserved honor. Thank you for your heroic service, and best of luck on your continued recovery and retirement!
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