Friday, December 9, 2011

Jack the Springer Spaniel saves lives in Afghanistan

When you think of dogs in a war zone, a "Springer Spaniel" would likely not be the first breed that comes to mind but here is proof that the breed can do the job even in the rough terrain of Afghanistan.

Good Show Jack.

Jack the springer spaniel, the bomb-sniffer dog who's saved his master's life... again and again
By David Wilkes - UK Mail
7th December 2011

Amid the myriad dangers of the Afghan conflict, Jack the springer spaniel is so much more than just a man’s best friend.

Thanks to his skill at sniffing out bombs, he has saved his handler Private Andrew Duff’s life ‘more times’ than the soldier ‘cares to think about’.

Jack is one of a number of the Army’s specially trained Arms and Explosives Search dogs, scouring the deadly paths of Helmand Province for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by the Taliban. He has prevented countless servicemen and civilians being killed or maimed.

Blissfully unaware of the danger he faces, six-year-old Jack has been keenly working with Private Duff, 31, for 18 months, proving himself an essential asset with at least nine confirmed ‘finds’.

Now his feats have made him the cover star of this week’s edition of Country Life, out today, where he is featured in a new series about Britain’s ‘top dogs’.

Not for nothing does Private Duff, of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, describe himself and Jack as ‘inseparable’.

‘Once, we were searching a compound in North Helmand that we had patrolled past many times previously. Jack told me that he’d found something, right under where I was about to step,’ he said. ‘To this day I am certain that he saved my life and those around me. I trust him implicitly.

Jack underwent 15 weeks of intensive training in Britain, involving sessions on fitness and obedience and tests with distractions such as smoke and heat, before being flown out to Afghanistan, where he spent another three weeks learning how to locate IEDs.

A dog indicates a ‘find’ by sitting. The training is based on rewards, with dogs receiving a treat – often a play with a tennis ball or a cuddle – every time they sniff out an explosive device.

Private Duff said: ‘Jack’s appetite for searching is immeasurable. Whenever he’s out of his kennel, he’s working, whether I’ve asked him to or not. He loves it.’

The extraordinary bond between military dogs and their masters was tragically highlighted earlier this year when Theo, a 22-month-old springer spaniel cross, suffered a seizure and passed away shortly after his handler, Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, 26, was killed in a firefight with the Taliban in Helmand.

The dog, which had broken the record for successful finds with his master, was said to have died of a broken heart.

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