Since 1943, PDSA have been awarding the PDSA Dickin Medal to animals showing conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty in the battlefield.
To date, 65 medals have been awarded to a large number of dogs, pigeons and one cat.
Today, I am attending the ceremony to celebrate the latest recipient. Sasha, a four year old Labrador served in Afganistan as a detection dog making an incredible 15 confirmed finds, undoubtedly saving many lives. While returning from patrol in 2008 with her handler Lance Corporal Kenneth Rowe they were ambushed and injured. Although surviving this initial attack, both Kenneth and Sasha were killed shortly afterwards in a second ambush. Sasha's medal was received on her behalf by Fire, a retired military detection dog and Sasha's former handler, Sergeant Major Andy Dodd of the Royal Veterinary Corp.
Fire, was injured whilst on duty by an explosive device and required multiple surgeries for her extensive injuries. She now lives as a pet with a member of the Corp and is a great ambassador for military working dogs.
It's great to see just how important this award is to not only the handlers, but also the families of service personnel and the wider public. Sasha wasn't a piece of military hardware, she was a member of the team and a fantastic moral boost to all around her working and living in an incredibly stressful environment. As a vet I see lots of pets who have helped their owners through difficult times, whether that is illness or grief, and this medal is the epitome of just how important that relationship can be.