Sandra Lee

Australia’s most loved and decorated canine war hero, Explosive Detection Dog Sarbi, has died after a short battle with brain cancer.EDD Sarbi

The Australian Army’s four-legged Digger passed away on Friday with her loving handler, Warrant Officer David Simpson, and his wife, Kira, by her side.

“Unfortunately, her condition had deteriorated quickly over the last four weeks and her quality of life was no longer acceptable,” WO Simpson said on Sarbi’s Facebook page.

“Sarbi had a wonderful life serving Australia as an EDD and as a pet at home for the last five years.”

Sarbi was awarded the highest military honour for canine warriors, the War Dog Operational Medal, as well as the prestigious Purple Cross by the RSPCA for her services in war-time.

The beautiful Newfoundland-Labrador retriever cross suffered several seizures in recent weeks and underwent a spinal tap MRI and CT Scan, which detected a tumour in her brain.

She was 12.

As I wrote in my book, Saving Private Sarbi, the plucky pooch went missing during a life-and-death ambush between the elite SAS and the enemy Taliban in Khas Uruzgan, about 100km north-east of Tarin Kot in Afghanistan in 2008.

Shrapnel from an enemy bomb sliced through her leash, separating her from Simpson and in the chaos and bloodshed of battle, she got lost. She was the first Australian military working dog to go missing in action. [click to continue…]

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Peter Haran was just 19 years old when he was deployed on his first tour of duty to Vietnam in 1967 as part of the Australian Army’s dog tracker section.

With him was Caesar, a black Labrador-retriever crossed with a kelpie – a mongrel, to be more accurate, or as Pete described his four-legged best mate, a ‘smart arse’ dog.

Caesar with his handler, Pete Haran (left) on duty in Vietnam (picture from Haran's book, Trackers)

The pair were members of the 2nd Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) and their job was to track down the enemy Viet Cong.

Earlier today, Pete (seen in the picture holding Caesar’s collar) sent me an email alerting me to a new short film made by his son, Brady Haran, when the father-son duo returned to Nui Dat in Vietnam last year.

Pete took Brady to the same jungle track where Caesar saved his life while in pursuit of two injured enemy fighters who fled after a firefight with an Australian infantry platoon out on patrol.

The dog tracker team was choppered in to the war zone and Pete instructed his dog to “seek”.

“This was the worst day of my life,” Pete reveals in the film.

But, because of luck and “a dog with an incredible uncanny ability”, Pete survived.

As I write in my book, Saving Private SarbiCaesar was a first-class tracker dog, and one of the Army’s best. In fact, he was one of the two first dogs deployed to Vietnam. It was the dog’s mission to find the enemy who had opened fire on the Australian soldiers.

But what Caesar did that day in the jungle not only saved his handler’s life, but the lives of a platoon of about 20 Diggers, several of whom were wounded when the platoon commander stepped on an M16 land mine.

Sadly, when Pete’s tour of duty was over, Caesar was handed to an incoming dog handler. When the Australian Army was withdrawn from the war, he was adopted by an Australian diplomat. Caesar lived a great life and did invaluable work. As Pete says in the film, without his beloved mutt, his son wouldn’t have been standing in the same jungle where he stood as a young man in 1967.

To read more about Pete’s and Caesar’s work in Vietnam, you should grab a copy of his top book, Trackers.

To see Brady Haran’s film of his dad in Vietna – and I recommend you do – go here. It won’t cost a thing, and you’ll learn plenty about our Military Working Dogs.

In dogs we trust.





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