A HERO dog who saved troops fighting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan has received an animal Victoria Cross.
The four-year-old Belgian Shepherd Malinois named Kuno - who now walks on prosthetic legs - was part of an SBS patrol pinned down by grenade and machine-gun fire.
Troops were unable to move without taking casualties when Kuno charged through a hail of bullets to tackle a heavily-armed al-Qaeda gunman who was "willing to fight to the death".
The highly trained hound – on his 16th combat mission – was shot through both his back legs, but he carried on mauling the terrorist gunmen until the SBS commandos arrived behind him and “neutralised” their assailant.
"Without hesitation, Kuno charged through a hail of gunfire to tackle the gunman, breaking the deadlock and changing the course of the attack, allowing the mission to be completed successfully," pet charity PDSA said.
Speaking for the first time since the deadly mission in May 2019, Kuno's handler revealed how he fought to save the dog's life.
He said: “I moved over to him and he was hobbling around and he was clearly in a bad way.
“I carried him out of the compound. Then myself and the medic who was on the ground both just started working on him.
“His paw was all mangled up. It didn’t look good, so we bandaged that up.
“He had what’s called a through and through in his thigh. The bullet had gone straight through his thigh and out the other side.
“From the moment he got hit and all the way until the extraction he was under constant medical care.”
He was treated in the back of a helicopter and flown to a US Army operating theatre where surgeons had to amputate his foot.
His injuries were so severe he required several operations before he was stable enough to fly back to the UK. One of the bullets had narrowly missed an artery.
Back in the UK he became the first military working dog to be fitted with prosthetic legs.
Kuno was formally presented with his PDSA Dickin Medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross – via a virtual presentation today by the charity’s director general Jan McLoughlin.
“His loyalty, upbeat character and courage were ever-present through a prolonged period of rehabilitation and, despite his injuries, he has recovered well and is in good spirits and health.Now he is thriving in retirement,” the charity said in a statement.
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Kuno has become the 72nd recipient of the prestigious honour, joining a line-up of brave dogs, horses, pigeons and a cat.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “It is 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.”
Other Dickin Medal medal winners
Kuno has become the 72nd Dickin Medal recipient.
The others include include 35 dogs, 32 messenger pigeons, four horses and one cat.
Diesel – Belgian Malinois, French Police dog Date of Award: awarded posthumously on 28 December 2015. Tragically killed as he led a raid on the Paris terror cell on the morning of Nov 18, 2015. Five days after the Paris attacks which killed 130 people, the French national police forces were involved in a security operation in the suburb of St-Denis. Diesel searched an apartment where the suspected leader and six fellow terrorists were staying. He was shot and killed during the mission.
Sadie – Labrador Date of Award: 6 February 2007. Saved the life of Defence Minister James Heappey and fellow British troops in Afghanistan in 2005. Sadie was deployed to search for secondary explosive devices. She gave a positive indication near a concrete blast wall and multinational personnel were moved to a safe distance. Her actions undoubtedly saved the lives of many civilians and soldiers.
Simon - Cat Awarded posthumously 1949. “Served on HMS Amethyst during the Yangtse Incident, during the Chinese Civil War, disposing of many rats though wounded by shell blast. Throughout the incident his behaviour was of the highest order, although the blast was capable of making a hole over a foot in diameter in a steel plate.”
Upstart – Police Horse Date of Award: 11 April 1947 “While on patrol duty in Bethnal Green a flying bomb exploded within 75 yards, showering both horse and rider with broken glass and debris. Upstart was completely unperturbed and remained quietly on duty with his rider controlling traffic, etc., until the incident had been dealt with.”
Gustav - Pigeon Date of Award: 1 September 1944. “For delivering the first message from the Normandy Beaches from a ship off the beach-head while serving with the RAF on 6 June 1944.” Commando- Pigeon Date of Award: March 1945 “For successfully delivering messages from Agents in Occupied France on three occasions: twice under exceptionally adverse conditions, while serving with the NPS in 1942.”