A military working dog with nerves of steel has been awarded a posthumous medal for bravery.
The medal – instituted by the PDSA in 1943 – is the highest award any animal can receive while serving in military conflict. Sasha, who was four-years-old when killed along with her handler, is the 65th PDSA Dickin Medal recipient, and the first since 2012.
Sasha, a Labrador, was initially deployed in Afghanistan with Sergeant Andy Dodds (now Sergeant Major) of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps attached to the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment. Their primary role was to search in advance of patrols, providing safe passage for soldiers, uncovering hidden weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and bomb-making equipment.
Sasha’s determination to search and push forward – despite gruelling conditions and relentless Taliban attacks – was described as a morale boost to the soldiers who entrusted their lives to her weapon-finding capability.
In May 2008, Sasha was reassigned to Lance Corporal Kenneth Rowe and deployed to Kandahar on further duties. During their time together they forged a unique bond, locating numerous IEDs.
However, on July 24, 2008, Sasha and Lance Corporal Rowe were returning from a routine search operation when their patrol was ambushed. They survived the first attack, but a second tragically claimed both their lives.
During her time in Afghanistan, Sasha made 15 confirmed operational finds. Her actions saved many soldiers and innocent civilians from death and serious injury.
The medal was accepted on Sasha’s behalf by Sergeant Major Dodds and retired military working dog Fire, and the ceremony was attended by colleagues and relatives of Lance Corporal Rowe.
PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said: “We are immensely proud to honour Sasha with the PDSA Dickin Medal. It is the highest award any animal can receive for lifesaving bravery in conflict. Without doubt, her heroic actions in Afghanistan saved many lives.
“For more than 70 years, PDSA has recognised the gallant and lifesaving deeds of animals who also serve. By continuing this tradition today we are fulfilling our founder’s mission by helping to raise the status of animals in society.”