Sandra Lee

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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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 gone, decades too early.Sandra and Mum

Twenty years is a long time ago but the loss is no less painful today than it was when I heard the devastating news over the phone from my older brother, who had been with Mum when she died and who, despite his decades of training in the Australian Army, was unable to resuscitate her.

The paramedics, who arrived within minutes of being called, similarly could do nothing for her. Mum was dead before she hit the ground. No number of medical miracles could have reversed that fate.

There are no words to fully express the impact of a sudden, unexpected death, just as there is no way to fully account for the constant ache that remains as the legacy of loss. There is no closure and time does not ease the pain.

Instead, you find a way, or ways, to live with a new reality. At least, I have. There are times, like today, when the phantom ache of Mum’s absence is especially pronounced, but there are other days when memories of her indefatigable life force remind me how lucky I was to have such an extraordinary mother who left an indelible mark on the lives of her family and, similarly, on the lives of all those who knew her.

ThisElle memoir 3 year, to commemorate the two decades since my darling Mum – Valda May Lee – died, I wrote a memoir of grief and loss. But most importantly, it is a memoir of the primacy and power of mother love, the greatest love of all.

The memoir can be found in the current edition of Elle magazine, with Rose Byrne on the cover.

The photograph of me and Mum above is one of my favourite pictures and never fails to make me smile. I’m about three years old, and we are at her squash club – remember squash? – with Santa. That smile!

Happy Mothers’ Day, Mum. You are never forgotten, and forever missed.

And a very happy Mothers’ Day to all you lovely Mums. Know how loved you are.







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