Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Dog Named Sabi

Here is another true story about a brave war dog, and this story has a happy ending, so you won't need any kleenexes.  Sabi is a black labrador retriever from Australia who was working in Afghanistan.  This is a picture of her with her handler in July, 2007, which was the first time she was in Afghanistan.

Sabi's job was to find these bomb things that are called IEDs, which is short for "improvised explosive devices."   These IEDs are very dangerous because they are hidden in the road and other places where you might be driving or walking around, and then when they explode, they can kill a bunch of soldiers or at least hurt them really bad.  So dogs, with their superior sense of smell, can find these IEDs before anybody gets blown up by them, which is a very good thing.

During the second time that Sabi was in Afghanistan, she got lost during a battle.  It was on September 2, 2008, and what happened was that a bunch of bad guys suddenly attacked a group of Australians, Americans, and Afghans, who were the good guys.  Later on, a soldier said that Sabi disappeared right after a rocket exploded near her.  I don't know about you, but if a rocket exploded near me, I certainly wouldn't hang around, so I think Sabi was smart to run off or take cover or whatever she did.  Anyway, afterwards, a bunch of soldiers looked all over for Sabi, but they couldn't find her anywhere.  So she was declared MIA, which stands for "missing in action."

Then last November, guess what happened!  An American soldier saw a dog that looked like it might be a military dog, and this dog was with an Afghan man.  So the soldier gave the dog some commands, and she obeyed them, and that showed the soldier that the dog was a military dog, just like he thought.  And also he knew that the Australians had lost Sabi in that same area more than a year before that.  So the dog was flown to the Australian base, where they figured out for sure that this dog was Sabi.

After that, a retired Lieutenant Colonel named George Hulse, who is the president of the Australian Defense Force Trackers and War Dogs Association, said that he was really glad that Sabi had been found because he had pretty much given up hope that she would be.  Also he said that Sabi was "an exceptionally good worker, very gritty dog and has found improvised explosive devices and she's saved quite a few lives in her work."

The news that Sabi had been found came out on November 11, which is Veterans' Day.  And it also happened to be the exact same day that the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was visiting the Australian base, along with U.S. Commander General Stanley McChrystal.  So they were lucky enough to get to meet Sabi.  You can see them with her in this photo.  Prime Minister Rudd is the one with the white hair and blue shirt, and Gen. McChrystal is the one who looks like a general.

People said that we would never know what had happened to Sabi while she was MIA, but that somebody had taken care of her because she was in pretty good condition.  They told everybody that Sabi would be quarantined for a while to make sure she didn't have any nasty diseases, and then she would go back to Australia, where she could retire and chase tennis balls all the time.

And that was the end of the story.  Except that it wasn't, because while I was digging around on the internet -- which is nicer to do right now than digging in the frozen ground outside -- I found a later article about Sabi from December.  And what this article said was that Sabi had really ended up with a Taliban guy named Mullah Hamdullah, which is a pretty  funny-sounding name, if you ask me.  He was a leader who was not very important, but I guess having Sabi made him think he was hot stuff, so he was showing her off to everybody.

Then the Australians captured Mr. Hamdullah's father and offered to trade him for Sabi.  But he didn't think that was a fair trade.  Then later on, Mr. Hamdullah's father got released anyway, but the Taliban guys still kept Sabi.  Finally, though, Mr. Hamdullah got tired of having Sabi around, so he sent somebody to the American base (because it was closer than the Australian one) to say that he would return Sabi for $10,000.

First the Americans asked for proof that Sabi was still alive, which she was, and the Taliban had photos to show that.  Then the Americans said they would pay money to get Sabi back, but they only gave them a little bit of money instead of $10,000.  So Mr. Mullah Hamdullah looked silly, and the people in his village laughed at him.

Anyway, that is the real story of what happened to Sabi, the brave war dog who ended up being a prisoner of war for 14 months.  By now she is probably back home in Australia, where she can eat lots of yummy kangaroo meat, and she won't ever have to sniff out bombs again.

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