Canadians say goodbye to "queen" sniffer dogs in Afghanistan

Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:18am EDT
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By Emma Graham-Harrison

F.O.B. SPERWAN GHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Sniffing out bombs that kill and maim hundreds of Western soldiers in Afghanistan each year is a game for Eggy, rewarded with a lightly boiled chicken breast.

"It's as simple as that, she just wants to go out and have fun," said Sinisa "Bullet" Erkman, a Croatian who works as the handler for the five-year-old German shepherd.

But her games helped save lives, and when the Canadian forces she works with head home next month, their U.S. replacements hope to recruit even more canine help.

"There should be more (dogs) than the Canadians have; their arrival is just a matter of space," said Captain Sean Allred, who is taking command of Forward Operating Base Sperwan Ghar, currently crammed with both U.S. and Canadian troops.

Eggy and the other sniffer dogs she works with are mascot, protection, and a reminder of home all rolled into one for the troops they serve.

"This is my second tour and it made a big difference having the dogs, rather than having to send a guy to poke a suspected IED (improvised explosive device)," said Corporal Louis Larivierre, using the military's standard name for the bombs.

On the smaller combat outposts, where soldiers are more isolated and there is only one dog, Eggy was so spoiled that Erkman sometimes had to ask the soldiers to ignore her for a couple of days, to remind her who is in control.

"I expected to come in one day and find her sitting at a table drinking a coffee and smoking a cigarette; she was so comfortable. She was like a queen," he said.   Continued...

<p>An Afghan sapper searches for anti-tank mines with the help of a sniffer dog in Bagram valley, near the coalition joint task force base, 50 kms (31 miles) north of Kabul, June 29, 2003.REUTERS/Arko Datta</p>