Life-saving Labrador set to receive animal 'VC'

To the untrained eye, black Labrador Treo looks like any other happy, healthy dog.

But the nine-year-old has seen more of a warzone than most people will in a lifetime and is now the proud recipient of the animal equivalent of a Victoria Cross for his life-saving skills sniffing out roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

The Dickin Medal, the highest accolade a military animal can expect, will be presented to Treo and his handler Sergeant Dave Heyhoe in a special ceremony organised by the PDSA at the Imperial War Museum today.

Treo, who saw frontline action patrolling with soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008, is now retired, enjoying life at home.

He and Sgt Heyhoe have returned to their former base 104 Military Working Dogs Support Unit, in North Luffenham, Rutland.

Sgt Heyhoe said: "Treo and I have been working together for the last five years.

"We started our time together in Northern Ireland, then moved to North Luffenham, where we then went out to Afghanistan in 2008."

While there, Treo saved lives as he patrolled with Sgt Heyhoe in Sangin, Helmand Province.

At that time the army had 25 dogs deployed in Afghanistan supporting troops in various roles, including as protection dogs and as detection dogs, working both in vehicle searches and as arms and explosives search dogs - like Treo.

"Treo's work involves searching for arms and explosives out on the ground to the forefront of the troops," Sgt Heyhoe said.

"What we're trying to do is make sure there are no death-dealing agents out there to make sure there is no harm to the troops behind us.

"It's very important. We are part and parcel of the search element. We're not the ultimate answer but we are an aid to search.

"Another aid would be the metal detector - but Treo is a four-legged variety."

On August 15 2008, while working as a forward detection dog in Sangin, Treo found a "daisy chain" improvised explosive device (IED) - made of two or more explosives wired together - that had been carefully modified and concealed by the Taliban at the side of a path.

A month later, his actions saved another platoon from guaranteed casualties, again by finding a daisy chain IED.

Treo started his career at the Defence Animal Centre, based in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, when he was a year old.

He did 12 weeks training before he went to Northern Ireland, where he worked for three years with his first handler before Sgt Heyhoe took over.

But their relationship is now far more than a working partnership, Sgt Heyhoe said.

"Basically, me and the dog have got to get a rapport. We've got to understand each other and without that we can't be effective on the ground.

"He must know when I want him to go somewhere to search, that's where he goes.

"Everyone will say that he is just a military working dog - yes, he is, but he is also a very good friend of mine. We look after each other."

Treo is the 63rd animal to receive the Dickin Medal - introduced by PDSA founder Maria Dickin in 1943 to honour the work of animals in war - and the 27th dog to receive the honour.

Since its introduction it has also been presented to 32 Second World War messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.

Sgt Heyhoe said the praise was symbolic for all dogs and their handlers working in warzones.

"I'm very proud indeed, not only for myself and Treo, but it's for every dog and handler that's working out in Afghanistan or Iraq," he said.

"That's what the medal means to us - taking it for the rest of the guys and their dogs."

Major Chris Ham, officer commanding the Canine Division at the Defence Animal Centre, said dogs were playing an increasingly important role, particularly in Afghanistan.

He said: "It's being recognised more and more in this day and age that the key capability the armed explosives dog does have lies particularly in finding IEDs.

"They give a unique contribution to the troops on the ground searching for these devices on a daily basis.

"This medal is a unique honour for all of our dog handlers, particularly all the military working dogs and their handlers that are serving in Afghanistan."

But he said they were still keen to recruit more dogs like Treo - especially gun dog breeds including springer spaniels, Labradors, golden retrievers, retrievers and their crosses, as well as larger breeds such as German shepherds.

"It's very difficult at the moment to recruit dogs and we are constantly campaigning," he said.

"We need to recruit military working dogs all the time so we can carry on the good work they are doing."

Speaking ahead of today's ceremony, PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said: "We look forward to honouring Treo with the PDSA Dickin Medal.

"The medal is recognised throughout the world as the animals' Victoria Cross and is the highest award any animal can receive for bravery in the line of duty.

"Treo is, without doubt, a worthy recipient."

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone