Bomb-sniffing dog back after year lost in Afghanistan

A bomb-sniffing dog that ran away from its Australian army handler during an ambush in Afghanistan 14 months ago has returned to her unit.

A bomb-sniffing dog that ran away from its Australian army handler during an ambush in Afghanistan more than a year ago has returned to her unit.

In this photo taken Nov. 11, explosive detection dog Sabi is shown at Forward Operating Base Ripley in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. ((Andrew Mearse, Pool/Associated Press))

Sabi, a black Labrador retriever, took off during a gunfight between militants and a joint Australian-Afghan patrol in Uruzgan province in September 2008. Nine Australian soldiers, including the dog's trainer, were wounded in the battle, and one Australian soldier earned his country's highest medal for bravery during the fight.

Months of searching for Sabi turned up nothing, and she was officially declared missing in action.

However, the dog was recovered by a U.S. soldier at an isolated patrol base elsewhere in Uruzgan and brought to the Australians' Tarin Kowt base.

She got a celebrity welcome back to her base on Wednesday from visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

"The initial veterinary checks of Sabi indicate that she's in good health … particularly considering the 14 months she's been in the wilds of Afghanistan," Brigadier Brian Dawson of the Australian Defence Force told reporters in Canberra. 

Sabi is expected to stay in Afghanistan until she gets the all-clear from the veterinarian for a possible return to Australia.

The dog could now be in line for a medal for her war efforts.

"She's been a fantastic dog and given us great service, and that she's a survivor shows that she's got the true Australian spirit there," said George Hulse of ADF Trackers and War Dogs Association in Brisbane. "She's never going to say die; she's going to take it right down to the wire. And she's done that.

"One medal is called the War Dog Operational Medal, and Sabi is certainly entitled to that one. And we also have another one which is called the Canine Service Medal, which is for five years of service, and Sabi's going to be entitled to that as well."

With files from The Associated Press