Taking time to honour our often unsung canine heroes

SPR Ian Mos, Flo Joe and and the author.Each year the International Fund for Animal Welfare recognises the achievements of unsung animal heroes around Australia and this year for the first time, animals were honoured for their efforts in assisting humans. The Animal of the Year award went to two very brave and special animals - recently retired Explosive Detection Dogs (EDDs) Flo Joe and Cody.

As the dogs were not able to make it to the Sydney Awards ceremony, I tacked on a day to a trip to Queensland and visited Townsville Army barracks to present the award to Flo Joe and her handler SPR Ian Moss in person.

Cody is currently enjoying retirement with his handler in Victoria so Flo Joe accepted the award on his behalf. She took the presentation all in her stride, accepting the award graciously, and posing effortlessly for the media.

Flo Joe was recruited as a seven month old puppy from Townsville pound in 2006 and from this humble beginning went on to be a complete natural in her newfound career. Her love for retrieving tennis balls was essential and is an important selection criterion for bomb dogs as they are awarded them as a treat.

On her last deployment Flo Joe had the highest find count for the EDD Section and has the honour of being the first known Australian EDD to find an Improvised Explosive Device in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the insurgents are continually modifying their improvised explosive devices by making them with ''low-metal'' or ''no-metal'' parts to avoid being picked up by mine detectors.

But a dog can smell an IED with no metal that a mine detector might miss, which is why they are so essential.

Animals are at work in various, often dangerous situations around the world, but their work often goes unrecognized.

So it was a great honour to present this award to Flo Joe and Cody on behalf of all the army dogs who assist in saving lives and reducing injuries for Australian soldiers, coalition partners, local security forces and civilians.

And last but not least, I’d like to recognise the dedication of Flo Joe and Cody’s handlers, who put in extra hours around the clock to train the dogs for their important missions.

If you would like to nominate a special animal for next year’s Animal Action Awards, please keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for nomination dates and details.

-- JS

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