Sarbi, Australia’s most decorated war dog, has died from cancer.
Having started life as a mutt before being adopted by Australian Defence Force, Sarbi served as a Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) for the Special Operations Engineer Regiment before multiple tours to Afghanistan.
She was serving as part of the Australian Special Operations Task Group in 2008 when Australian troops came under under heavy fire from the Taliban.
Nine of the 12 Australian soldiers were injured in the firefight, including Sarbi’s handler, the largest number of Australian casualties in one incident since the Vietnam War. Trooper Mark Donaldson was awarded Australia’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, for his bravery in the fight, but Sarbi was lost during the battle and feared dead.
For 13 months Sarbi survived in the region, to later be found by a US soldier on patrol in a nearby village.
She was returned to her home to Australia, retired and re-united with her handler Corporal David Simpson, seeing out her days living with him and another army dog, Vegas.
Sarbi was awarded the highest military honour for animals, the RCPCA Australian Purple Cross, as well as the War Dog Operational Medal and the Canine Service Medal.
Only eight RSPCA Purple Crosses, which recognise animals that have shown outstanding service to humans, have ever been awarded. John Simpson’s donkey, Murphy, received the award in 1997, for courage in the face of conflict during the Gallipoli campaign.
Corporal David Simpson said Sarbi passed away peacefully with her family by her side.
“Unfortunately her condition had deteriorated quickly over the last four weeks and her quality of life was no longer acceptable.
“Sarbi had a wonderful life serving Australia as an EDD and as a pet at home for the last five years.
“I remember the constant need to satisfy her hunger for retrieving, whether it was a tennis ball, a rock or a leaf. She was always so happy and would greet us at the gate with an excited howl every day before running off to find a ball.
“I hope that Sarbi has brought as much joy into everyone else’s life as what she has done for Kira [his wife] and I.
“Sarbi will live on in everyone’s hearts and minds and I hope that her story of perseverance and determination will inspire you to do whatever you can to achieve your goals and dreams.”
She was 12 years old.
Sarbi’s extraordinary story was told in the 2011 book Saving Private Sarbi, by Sandra Lee.
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