A military dog who charged through a hail of Al Qaeda gunfire to take out a sniper and save the lives of British soldiers was last month awarded the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross—the Dickin Medal.
Working as a canine protection and detection dog, Kuno had already undertaken 16 missions in five months before a fateful night in May 2019.
His role was to work with his handler in dangerous, mountainous, and unforgiving terrain and conditions, detecting weapons, explosives, and taking down any enemy insurgents, if required.
During an operation in May 2019, having been among the first off the helicopter with his handler, their unit came under attack as they approached a compound they intended to raid.
Pinned down by small-arms fire and grenades, the Special Forces team members were initially unable to move.
Eventually, they entered the compound, and Kuno was released to attack and contain an insurgent. He did so successfully, before switching his focus to detection, finding an array of hidden weapons and explosives.
Suddenly, as the mission continued, several grenades were detonated in close proximity to the team, and a burst of machine-gun fire erupted from nearby. Another insurgent had concealed himself in preparation for an ambush. What he hadn’t anticipated was Kuno.
Kuno's handler knew he could rely on him to break the deadlock, and released the dog. The canine did not hesitate and raced through the doorway, surprising the enemy. As the insurgent shot wildly, Kuno was hit several times in his hind legs but was undeterred.
Launching himself at the insurgent, Kuno clamped down on his arm and wrestled him to the ground. By neutralizing the threat, he had changed the course of the battle completely.
Now Kuno himself needed attention for his gunshot wounds. He was given immediate first aid, with the team transferring him to the helicopter for lifesaving care.
Kuno’s injuries were severe, and he was lucky to have survived. He required several lifesaving operations before he was stable enough to return home. He was, however, left with debilitating injuries.
“Kuno is a true hero. His actions that day undoubtedly changed the course of a vital mission, saving multiple lives in the process. And despite serious, life changing injuries, he performed his duty without faltering.” McLoughlin added, “For this bravery and devotion to duty, we are honored to welcome him as the latest recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal.”Kuno also received high praise from British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace:
“I'm delighted that Kuno will receive the PDSA Dickin Medal. It is testament to his training, tireless bravery and devotion to duty which undoubtedly saved lives that day. I am very proud of the role our military working dogs play on operations at home and abroad. Kuno's story reminds us of the lengths these animals go to keep us all safe.”
The PDSA Dickin Medal was established by Maria Dickin, the charity’s founder, in 1943, during the height of World War II. She believed recognizing the heroic actions of animals would help to raise their status in society, ensuring they were better treated.
The medal is the highest award any animal can achieve while serving in military combat. To date, the Dickin Medal has been awarded to 35 dogs, 32 pigeons, 4 horses, and 1 cat.
Kuno’s recovery is still ongoing, but hopefully he enjoyed receiving his medal. He is also settling well into retirement and living the quiet life with his new loving family.