Page last updated at 10:10 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

Dog lost in Afghan battle returns


Sabi the retriever found in good health

A sniffer dog lost in battle in Afghanistan 14 months ago has turned up safe and well and rejoined its Australian unit.

Defence officials said Sabi the dog was recovered by a US soldier at an isolated patrol base.

The dog returned to a celebrity welcome from visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and US commander Gen Stanley McChrystal.

Sabi is being tested for disease before a possible return to Australia.

The black labrador bitch was with a joint Australian-Afghan patrol that was ambushed in Uruzgan province in September 2008.

Nine Australian soldiers, including Sabi's trainer, were wounded in the exchange.

After the battle there was no sign of the dog, and months of searching failed to find her. Sabi was officially declared Missing In Action.

An Australian military spokesman said it would probably never be known exactly what had happened to Sabi in the 14 months she was missing, but the fact that she was in good condition indicated she had been cared for by someone.

'Nice pooch'

And despite being MIA for more than a year, she showed through a simple game of "catch" with a tennis ball that she hadn't forgotten her training.

MIA dog meets Australian PM and US commander
A VIP welcome from the Australian prime minister and US commander

After meeting the dog, Mr Rudd said: "Sabi is back home in one piece and is a genuinely nice pooch as well."

One of the army patrol injured in the attack where Sabi was lost was Trooper Mark Donaldson.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross in January for rescuing a wounded interpreter under heavy machine gun fire during the ambush.

"She's the last piece of the puzzle. It's a fantastic morale booster for the guys," he said when he heard of Sabi's return.

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