Sarbi is a Australian Special Forces dog who went missing when working with her handler in Afghanistan. The Labrador Retriever, trained in explosives detection, went missing for over a year after becoming separated from her partner during a prolonged and fierce firefight with the Taliban.
U.S and Australian allied forces were out patrolling a remote valley in Afghanistan in September 2008 when they were ambushed by the Taliban. A four-hour firefight ensued and when the battle was over, Sarbi, an Australian Special Forces explosives detection dog was missing.
The Black Labrador's leash had been broken during the attack and in the chaos she was separated from her handler. Her handler Sergeant D (who cannot be identified for security reasons) was wounded in the attack.
"Early on in the contact a rocket-propelled grenade exploded within five metres of myself and Sarbi and part of the shrapnel broke the clip that had her lead attached to my body armour," Sergeant D said. "Sarbi was running free while the contact continued and a short while after I was hit by a couple of more RPGs [rocket propelled grenades] and I was wounded."
Sergeant D took cover in a hole on the side of the road. Sarbi wanted to make her way to him and came within about five metres, but a .50 calibre machine gun fired over their heads and she ducked for cover.
When the last coalition Humvee was coming past Seargeant D, he had to jump onto it and unfortunately, he had to leave Sarbi behind.
"Myself and eight others were wounded and had to get to medical treatment. Even though I was concerned for them I was worrying about Sarbi too," he said.
He spent six days in hospital recovering from shrapnel wounds, but after he was released he went back out to the scene of the ambush to look for Sarbi. A special operations group also searched for her, but they could find no trace of her. She was declared Missing in Action a month later.
Then 14 months later, a US soldier noticed a dog with an Afghan man. The dog did not appear to be an "ordinary dog". The soldier was aware of Sarbi's disappearance so he called out to the dog in English with some commands and Sarbi responded. He thanked the man who was with Sarbi and took her with him so she would be reunited with her Australian Special Forces trainers.
Sergeant D was overjoyed at her return. "I was ecstatic, over the moon, really happy and I went around and told a few people with a massive smile on my face,” he said. He knew it was her when he nudged a tennis ball to her with his food and she took it straight away. "It's a game we used to play over and over during her training. It’s amazing, just incredible, to have her back."
Although no one knows what happened to her during her year long absence, she appears to have been well-looked after and was given a clear bill of health. She was even a bit on the plump side.
Arrangements were made for her to return to Australia, and when she arrived home in January 2011 she was greeted as a hero. Sarbi was awarded the Purple Cross from the RSPCA for her bravery and courage. Soon after she retired and now spends her days comfortably at the home of her handler Seargeant D.
Sarbi is shown being awarded her Purple Cross in the video below.
Sarbi was evaluated by handlers for two weeks upon her return to Australia, prior to the decision that she would be retired. News media was on hand during her return.