A paw-print track representing the steps of a dog as it circles into sleep is part of a new memorial unveiled at the Australian War Memorial on February 24, the National Day for War Animals in Australia.
Dedicated to our military working dogs, it honours generations of dogs that have served, given unconditional loyalty and, in many cases, died in the line of duty, to a common cause.
Circling into sleep was created by artist Steven Holland with the help of Explosive Detection Dog Billie, who was trained by her handler to walk in a tight circle on a bed of clay to create the tracks.
With a backdrop of five military dog handlers and their animals, Minister for Veterans and Minister for Defence Personnel, Darren Chester, delivered the commemorative address and said we are here to remember the service and sacrifice of our four-legged heroes.
“No dog serves alone. Their service is only matched by their handler’s and the bond between them must be unbreakable,” Senator Chester said.
In the centre of the memorial is a tear-shaped stone where the remains of ‘Aussie’, Military Working Dog 426, were interred in December 2019.
“It is important to recognise the service and sacrifice of the dogs and the handlers.”
Aussie’s second handler, former Lance Corporal Shaun Ward, attended the memorial and remembered Aussie as a bit of a mischief maker.
“He was fairly boisterous and if there was any water around, you couldn’t get him out of it,” Lance Corporal Ward said.
“When the harness went on though, the job was on and he was a million miles an hour.”
Aussie was well-known among military working dog handlers for not just how long he served but for all the Australian domestic and international operations he participated in.
Having worked with dogs and their handlers for a decade, veterinarian officer Major Kendall Crocker was honoured to attend the second National Day for War Animals in Australia.
“It is important to recognise the service and sacrifice of the dogs and the handlers,” Major Crocker said.
“To see them honoured permanently at the Australian War Memorial is rewarding and special.”
Working dogs were first used by the Royal Australian Engineers in 1918 when British dogs worked as messengers for Australian sappers in the trenches on the Western Front.