Sandra Lee

Murray Young RosieRetired Explosive Detection Dog handler Murray Young is not the type of fella who wants recognition or accolades or pats on the back.

In fact, he hates that type of stuff so let’s set the record straight: he did not ask for this article and is embarrassed by it, just a bit. No, make that a lot.

Still, I convinced him to do a story because he’s doing something good for his fellow Diggers. Like a lot of our former men and women of the Australian Defence Force, he doesn’t know how not to serve.

In brief, he’s training the gorgeous dog you see above  to be a companion dog for a returning Aussie soldier who needs a bit of extra help in his or her post-deployment days. The dog, Rosie, was rescued by the RSPCA in country New South Wales. When it comes to training dogs, Murray knows what he’s doing.

Some history: Murray joined the Australian Army in 1999 and retired in 2013, and spent a decade as a Doggie, one half of the human-hound partnerships that make up the prestigious Explosive Detection Dog Section (EDDs). I first came across Murray when writing my book Saving Private Sarbi, The True Story of Australia’s Canine War Hero, a couple of years ago.

Murray was, at that time, the top Doggie of the section, and he spotted an advertisement in the newspaper offering Sarbi and her brother, Rafi, up for adoption. He suspected the dogs had the makings of being top-flight EDDs. He checked them out, liked what he saw (that is, both Rafi and Sarbi were inveterate ball retrievers, a key sign they’ll turn into good working dogs) and within a couple of hours, the Australian Army had its newest recruits bedded down in the kennels at the Holsworthy Barracks. [click to continue…]

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THE Australian Army has lost another fine four-legged veteran with the death of retired Explosive Detection Dog Vegas.Vegas

The Labrador retriever passed away peacefully earlier this month at her home in New South Wales where she lived with fellow EDD Sarbi, Australia’s most famous hero hound and their former Army handler.

Vegas (pictured in full flight in training at right) was 16, or 112 in dog years.

The gorgeous golden Lab retired from active service in 2005 to live with her handler from the unit then known as the Incident Response Regiment, Sergeant D (whose name can not be revealed for operational security reasons).

“Vegas was as happy as any other day, right up until the end,” Sgt D told me via email.

Vegas joined the Army when she was two years old at the start of 2000 and her first operational role was providing security for the Sydney Olympic Games.

Two years later, Vegas met Queen Elizabeth as part of the security detail for the Royal Golden Jubilee tour of Australia.

Her encounter with the Queen is told in in my book Saving Private Sarbi, The True Story of Australia’s Canine War Hero.

Here’s part of her story from Saving Private Sarbi:

D and Vegas were part of the security detachment for the Golden Jubilee Royal Tour of Cairns in 2002 and had lined the red carpet at the airport waiting for the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, to stroll past, as custom dictates. As the animal-loving royal made her way up the receiving line she spied the soldier with Vegas sitting neatly beside his left leg, a fine example of an obedient and well-trained dog. Her Royal Highness is a die-hard dog person. She fell in love with the quirky corgi breed as a child in 1933.  [click to continue…]

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A Mothers Day memoir of loss, grief and mother love

May 11, 2014

Twenty years ago today, smack bang in the middle of a Mothers’ Day picnic, my beloved Mum dropped dead of a heart attack. There was no warning. No signal that anything was wrong. None whatsoever. Mum was 60 years old, healthy, happy, fit and in love with life. And then, just like that, she was [...]

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Meet EDD Sarbi’s Vietnam War predecessor, Caesar.

April 18, 2014

A few weeks ago at the State Library of New South Wales chance dealt me a top hand and I met a couple who had just bought a book about a dog rescued by Australian soldiers during the First World War and  secretly repatriated the scrappy mutt to Australia against military orders. As they were talking, [...]

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The Australian Army’s top dog Sarbi steals the show again

March 6, 2014

How good is Explosives Detection Dog Sarbi? The 12-year-old bomb sniffing dog came out of retirement again to take part in an event to honour animals who have served in combat since World War 1. The Of Animals In War event at the magnificent Australian War Memorial in Canberra on February 23 was a huge success, but [...]

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Diggers finally recognised with gong for war-like service

February 5, 2014

Twenty-two years ago my older brother was deployed to war-torn Cambodia to help that country prepare for a free and fair election. Last week as part of the Australia Day honours, he and his fellow members of the Australian Defence Force were finally honoured with a Meritorious Unit Citation for their courage and “sustained outstanding [...]

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