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Norwich Bulletin - 11/9/2008

More On Our Animal War Heroes

There are other war heroes besides dogs. During the Chinese Civil War in 1949, Simon, the cat is credited with helping save the lives of Royal Naval Officers. During a 101 day siege, Simon was the mascot cat on board the HMS Amethyst, and he protected the food storage areas from the rats on board the ship, which allowed the men to have food that was uninfected by rats getting into the food areas.

Simon was also a morale booster to many young sailors during a terrifying time of war. The Amethyst came under fire during the siege, and he suffered severe shrapnel wounds. Three weeks later, Simon died from his wounds. He received a heroís welcome when the Amethyst docked at its home port in Plymouth on November 1, 1949.

Simon was posthumously awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal, which is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, and he was given the rank of Able Seaman. He was also buried with full military honors at the PDSA Animal Cemetery in Ilford, Essex.

Simon has the additional honor of being the only cat among the 62 animal recipients of the Dickin Medal.

One of the newest recipients of the Dickin Medal, is a specially trained Springer Spaniel by the name of Buster. Buster is a trained explosives sniffer dog who discovered a huge cache of arms from an enemy camp during a raid. His discovery led to the arrest of 16 Iraqi military, who were terrorizing the people of Safwan. The Iraqiís had denied having any arms and the human British soldiers had been unable to find any hidden weapons. Thatís when Buster went in and did his thing.

The rule of thumb for an explosive sniffer dog, is that the dog goes in before the soldiers in case there are booby traps. It is obvious that the dog has the hardest and most dangerous job. So Buster went in and almost immediately became excited. The eapons had been hidden in a wall cavity and covered with a sheet of tin and then pushed a wardrobe in front of it.

Buster's find included AK47 assault rifles, a pistol, six grenades with fuses, 160 rounds of ammunition in magazines and another 79 loose bullets plus bomb-making equipment, suitcases full of cash, heroin and crack cocaine and pro-Saddam Hussein literature. Sergeant Morgan, of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, keeps Buster at his home where he doubles as a family pet for his five-year-old daughter Emma and wife Nicki, a 32-year-old nurse.

Buster came from a pet center where he was turned in as an unwanted pet. He was trained to fetch guns and ammunition instead of sticks, and, to him, itís all a game. Only his owner/handler knows what danger Buster faces each time her does his job. Buster is very important because he is the only Explosives search dog working in Iraq and is very necessary. In fact, he is so necessary, that he has his own protective gear to shield him against possible gas attacks.

So from World War I, to modern day, our companion animals prove to us to be much more than mere companions. They are our loyal protectors and comrades in combat Ė proving once again, manís best friend has four legs.

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