Belgian Malinois, Kuno, has proved beyond all doubt that dogs truly are humanity’s best friends.
a close up of a dog on a leash: PDSA© Provided by People PDSA
The retired British Army Working Dog suffered life-changing injuries while supporting the British special forces fighting Al Qaeda and has now been awarded the Dickin Medal – the highest award any animal can receive within the British military – from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).
a close up of a dog on a leash: Four-year-old Belgian Malinois, Kuno, served with British special forces in Afghanistan© PDSA Four-year-old Belgian Malinois, Kuno, served with British special forces in Afghanistan
To put it into human perspective: that’s the animal equivalent of winning the Victoria Cross, the UK's version of the Medal of Honor.
"Kuno is a true hero," Jan McLoughlin from the PDSA veterinary charity said in a release about the award, which was given to Kuno for his incredible bravery during a 2019 operation in Afghanistan.
a dog sitting in the grass: PDSA© Provided by People PDSA
For the operation, the four-year-old military pooch was deployed to support British troops attacking a well-armed Al-Qaeda compound.
Unfortunately, the assault force became pinned down by a heavy barrage of grenades and machine-gun fire launched by an insurgent equipped with night vision goggles, who had concealed himself in the compound.
With the British and Afghan troops unable to move without sustaining casualties, it fell to Kuno to break the deadlock.
After being released by his handler, Kuno – who had already incapacitated one insurgent and discovered a stash of hidden explosives during the raid – sprinted through the compound's doorway to attack the insurgent.
a dog with its mouth open: PDSA© Provided by People PDSA
Startled by Kuno's sudden arrival, the gunman fired wildly into the darkness, injuring the dog in both hind legs. Kuno continued to press forward and threw himself at the gunman, biting his arm and wrestling him to the ground.
Despite his serious leg wounds, the dog continued to attack the Al-Qaeda fighter until the assault force entered the courtyard and cleared the building. Only then did he finally take a rest.
"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 in the release.
"For this bravery and devotion to duty, we are honored to welcome him as the latest recipient of the PDSA Dickin."
a man in a uniform with a dog: PDSA Kuno with his handler back in the UK© Provided by People PDSA Kuno with his handler back in the UK
Unfortunately, the Al Qaeda fighter's bullets seriously damaged Kuno's back legs, with one only narrowly missing a main artery.
Despite receiving life-saving field treatment by medics in the back of a helicopter, Kuno still required several major operations before he was stable enough to return to the U.K.
This included amputating part of one of his rear paws to prevent life-threatening infection.
Happily, however, the hero dog has since made a full recovery from his surgery and has become the first U.K. Military Working Dog to be fitted with custom-made prosthetic limbs.
The PDSA describes him as being "in good spirits and health."
a dog running in the sand on a beach: PDSA© Provided by People PDSA
"I’m delighted that Kuno will receive the PDSA Dickin Medal," British defense secretary Ben Wallace said in the release. "It is a 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."
Kuno is the 72nd recipient of the Dickin Medal since it was created in December 1943, at the height of World War II.
To date, its recipients include 35 dogs, 32 WW2 messenger pigeons, four horses, and one cat.