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Author: DJR - 26 April 2012. Updated 2018.
Source: Refuge


     The Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge has adopted some of our smartest dogs over the years to the army and we wish to pay tribute to them, plus all the Australian dogs who have served overseas. Corporal James Hoy from the ADF Remediation Project recruited dogs into his care and training in the Sydney Army facility, and Sapper Shaun Ward from Brisbane recruited dogs into his care at Gallipoli Barracks 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment. The dogs are subjected to critical tests over 5 months before they can qualify as search dogs. This involves a lot of running and a lot of tennis balls. Life as an Army dog is great. If the dogs don’t pass their tests they can re-sit them and if they don’t make it through, they are either offered back to the refuge or owner, and if not, they are re-homed to a defence family via the Army intranet, and they are usually adopted within 2 to 3 days.

SHARNE receiving her Defence Canine Operational Medal in 2017

Military Working Dog (MWD) SHARNE retired in 2015 and is enjoying life at home with Corporal Kane Tiller, his wife and their children. In June 2017 she received the Defence Canine Operational Medal at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.  Sharne a little brown kelpie X bitch was found tied to a post with no food or water at a property in Queensland. When she was rehabilitated at the Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge she was recruited by Corporal James Hoy, Royal Australian Engineers from the refuge for training as an Explosive Detection Dog in the Australian Army. James assisted in her basic training at Enoggera and subsequently deployed her with her first handler overseas in 2008.

Sharne is a heroine having served as an Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) in Afghanistan four times, making her the most deployed MWD in Australian military history. Cpl Tiller — chief trainer of the EDD Section at the School of Military Engineering at Holsworthy — served with Sharne on three of these deployments. “The dogs have had an impact on every soldier deployed to Afghanistan or to other areas, even in Iraq now. You can’t calculate the number of lives they have saved,” he said. Sharne has worked with handlers in some of the most high-risk and high-stress conditions experienced by military personnel and animals in war zones. She now has a pretty quiet life and relaxes in a normal home environment where she can just be a normal dog.

When Sharne received her medal in Canberra,  James sent an email to SCARS “I'm sure you would be proud of her achievements, would love to see how cared for these dogs are by the handlers who serve with them, and what Sharne's retirement looks like now. Thanks Sippy Creek for providing quality working dogs to the Army, often dogs not wanted and unsuitable for life in a backyard but finding true purpose as a canine soldier.”


Sharne & Corporal Tiller


MERLIN, who was sourced from the Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge, was a veteran of the security operation surrounding the 2006 Commonwealth Games and operations in East Timor and Afghanistan. Merlin, who was killed in a vehicle accident in August 2007, was buried on high ground outside the base at Tarin Kot which is home to the Australian troops. Two soldiers from the special operations group were wounded earlier that day when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.


NOVA, also from the Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge, died in October 2009 in a car crash that was part of a training operation. Heartbroken soldiers farewelled Nova as her coffin was loaded on board an RAAF cargo plane for the flight back to Australia. Commanding officer Peter Connolly said the loss of Nova had been keenly felt. ‘‘Explosive detection dogs are a critical asset in our fight against improvised explosive devices. The dogs save countless lives.”


Nova and Reuben

PHOEBE (now called Ninja), and SONNY (now called Shadow) were recruited to Shaun at Brisbane, and Jim recruited TUPAC, RUTH AND MURPHY.  Ruth (Cattle Dog) and Murphy (Kelpie X) passed final certification on 11 July 2012. Both dogs were among the top four of their class of 20, with Ruth in particular starring with her extremely high level of intelligence. Ruth and Murphy were both a pleasure to train in the five months and it is both with a little sadness but also excitement that Jim Hoy handed them over to their new handlers and onwards into their new careers as Army working dogs.  Unfortunately, Tupac failed half way through the course but has been happily re-homed with a suitable army family. 


Murphy and Jim on graduation day above                                         Ruth and Jim on graduation day below

Today's Army Explosive Detection Dogs (EDD) provide support to the Australian Defence Force and Civilian Government Agencies in the detection of improvised explosive devices, explosives, ammunition and weapons.  EDD’s are trained to locate their targets- bombs, weapons, explosives- and communicate this to their handlers.

In a corner of the Australian recreation area in Tarin Kot Afghanistan, a memorial was built following the deaths of Sapper Darren Smith and his dog, Herbie, in June 2010. There, it is passed by ADF and ISAF personnel, everyday, reminding them of the essential and dangerous task that the EDDs and their Handlers undertake. The polished metal board features the names of the five dogs, Merlin, Razz, Andy, Nova, and Herbie, and Sapper  Darren Smith.


Above the names is a pair of silhouetted images: one of a dog and his Handler and the other of a dog. The silhouette of the dog and Handler was based on a photo of EDD Raven and his Handler Sapper Nathan Cooper. We were lucky to meet RAVEN who came to visit us at the refuge. She has had two tours of Afghanistan. The war memorial of the dogs and their handlers in Afghanistan was based on a picture of Raven’s silhouette. 

    HERBIE & Sapper Darren Smith - together with Sapper Jacob Moerland were killed in action by an IE Device in Afghanistan on 7 June 2010. Sapper Darren Smith and Herbie were the first ADF Dog Handler and Australian Military dog killed in action while working on the battlefield.       


ANDY, a dog serving with Australian Special Forces, was killed in a vehicle accident in November 2007. Another Australian dog was hurt when an improvised bomb exploded in January this year while it was working with the Mentoring and Reconstruction Taskforce.


In September 2007, three Australian soldiers were hurt and a black Labrador called RAZZ was killed in two separate roadside bombings. Razz discovered a bomb with a sensitive trigger mechanism that detonated the explosive, killing the animal instantly. A handler was slightly wounded in the blast. EDD, Razz who was KIA on 1 September 2007 was awarded posthumously with her medals received by handler LCPL Craig Turnbull. "She was a wonderful dog. A top EDD that was very intelligent. She was a family member to me and I’ll never forget her."


SARBI was an Australian special forces explosive detection dog (EDD). The black Labrador/Newfoundland cross was first deployed in 2007 as part of Operation Slipper. On her second tour of duty in Afghanistan, in 2008, she disappeared during the battle of Khaz Oruzgan, the same action in which SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson became the first recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia during this conflict. Sarbi was the first Australian military dog to go missing in action. Despite their best efforts, members of the Special Operations Task Group was unable to find their highly trained and much loved canine colleague, and feared the worst. But, in a remarkable turn of events, after almost 14 months, Sarbi was spotted by an American soldier; she was in the company of a local Afghani man. She was flown back to to the Australia  base in Tarin Kot to her overjoyed handler, Corporal David Simpson, who had never given up hope of finding the beloved and respected dog. News of Sarbi's incredible story went around the world. She returned to Australia to spend the next five years as a pet of Corporal Simpson and his wife. On 5 April 2011 Sarbi was awarded an RSPCA Purple Cross Award at the Australian War Memorial. This award recognizes the deeds of animals that have shown outstanding service to humans, particularly if they showed exceptional courage in risking their own safety or life to save a person from injury or death. Sarbi was also awarded the highest military honour for animals, the War Dog Operational Medal and Canine Service Medal. After a life of loyal service, Sarbi died from a brain tumour on 27 March 2015, with her family by her side.


 Sarbi with her medal


           (L-R) Cpl Corey Stamp with Rafi,                   Mandy and David               Mandy receives the ADF  medal

            Spr Shaun Ward with Aussie, 

            Spr Shaun Laing with Que,

         and Spr David Brown with Mandy.



TUSKER, another refuge dog who was recruited only after a week at SCARS.