Canberra, Australia — Kuga, a Special Operations Military Working Dog (SOMWD), posthumously received the PDSA Dickin Medal, which is the Victoria Cross equivalent for service animals.

A Belgian Malinois, Kuga served with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), and completed multiple combat deployments to Afghanistan. He received the prestigious award for his actions during Operation Slipper in 2011. An SASR unit was conducting a combat patrol close to a river. The Taliban, however, had prepared an ambush. Kuga sensed the danger and charged straight up to the concealed insurgents. To do so, he had to swim across the river. Whilst charging the enemy, he was shot five times. He suffered direct hits on his face, ears, chest, and back; his front left leg was also broken.

“Kuga took rounds as part of his job he was trained to do, but certainly didn’t shy away from it, he kept swimming and closing the gap towards him,” said Sergeant J, his SAS handler.

Ignoring the pain and life-threatening injuries, Kuga forced his opponents to flee and then swam back to his handler.

“I could see his limbs broken,” added Sergeant J. “I initially called him and tried to coach him across, he moved a little bit and sat back down. Then with a little bit more encouragement he just hobbled down on three legs, back into the water and then swam down back across the river, back towards me.”

The operator administered first-aid and called a helicopter casualty evacuation (CASEVAC).

Kuga underwent substantial rehabilitation in Afghanistan, Germany, and Australia. Despite his improvement, Kuga finally passed away because of his wounds in 2012.

“Kuga’s actions undoubtedly saved the lives of his patrol. He took on the enemy without fear, saving his comrades despite suffering serious injury, and is a thoroughly deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal,” said Jan McLoughlin, the PDSA Director General.