LONDON — A working dog that saved soldiers' lives in Afghanistan by detecting roadside bombs and even an underground militant hideout was on Thursday awarded a posthumous medal known as the 'animal Victoria Cross'.
Theo, a springer spaniel, died in March 2011 of a seizure hours after his handler, Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, was killed by enemy fire.
Tasker's relatives attended a ceremony Thursday at London's Wellington Barracks for the presentation of the PDSA Dickin Medal, awarded to animals by the veterinary charity for "conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict".
Tasker's mother, Jane Duffy, described Theo as her son's "best mate" and said they were together "24/7" in Afghanistan.
She went on: "Liam got his mention in dispatches, so it's lovely that Theo is getting his PDSA Dickin Medal and he's being recognised for his bravery as well.
"They'll be watching us and they'll be so proud. I just wish they were here to get it themselves. Theo and Liam saved so many lives out there."
The medal was accepted by Sergeant Matthew Jones and search dog Grace, who served with Tasker and Theo in the more than ten-year-long war against the Taliban.
"Without doubt, Theo's actions in Afghanistan saved many human lives," said the charity's chairman, Michael Bolton.
Theo and his handler -- who served with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps -- made 14 confirmed finds in five months, a record for a search dog in Afghanistan, a PDSA statement said.
These included a roadside bomb at a crossroads in Nad-e-Ali, Helmand Province which could have killed large numbers of people.
In another find, Theo discovered an underground tunnel leading to a room thought to be used by insurgents to make bombs and hide from NATO-led forces.
The medal has existed since 1943 and has been awarded to 28 dogs including Theo, 32 messenger pigeons which worked during World War II, three horses, and one cat.
Britain has some 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, most of whom are due to leave by the end of 2014.
Some 435 British personnel have been killed in the country since the start of the operation against the Taliban in 2001.
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