The Australian War Memorial has unveiled a new memorial dedicated to, and created by, military working dogs and their handlers.

Military working dogs have served alongside Australia’s defence forces since the First World War, and continue to play a vital role in domestic and international operations today. The memorial titled Circling into sleep, unveiled on 24 February in the Memorial’s Sculpture Garden, honours generations of dogs who have served, given their unconditional loyalty and, in many cases, their lives, to a common cause.

Acting Director of the Australian War Memorial Major General (Ret’d) Brian Dawson said the new memorial serves as a reminder of the invaluable contribution of military working dogs, as well as the special bond between dogs and their handlers.

“The Australian Defence Force has a long tradition of working with dogs, from the First World War through to operations in places such as Afghanistan, East Timor and Somalia,” Major General (Ret’d) Dawson said.

“In 2017, the ADF commissioned the Canine Operations Service Medal, becoming the first military in the world to specifically recognise and honour the contributions of military working dogs.”

The ashes of Aussie, Military Working Dog 426, were interred within the memorial on 4 December 2019. As a military working dog, Aussie served in Australian domestic and international operations including the Solomon Islands in 2004 and four deployments to Afghanistan with the Explosive Detection Dog Team. Described as a tireless worker, Aussie began to slow down after retirement and died in 2017, aged 16.

“Dogs including Aussie, whose ashes are interred here, have detected explosives, searched for and attacked the enemy, provided base security, and laid their lives on the line to save others. Unveiled on the National Day for War Animals in Australia, this memorial is a fitting tribute to their loyalty, bravery and sacrifice,” Major General (Ret’d) Dawson said.

Circling into sleep was created by renowned artist Steven Holland, with help from an Explosive Detection Dog called Billie and herr handler. Billie was trained to walk in a tight circle on a bed of soft clay to create the paw-print track which spirals into the memorial, representing the steps of a dog as it circles into sleep.

“This is the dogs’ memorial. It is low to the ground and humble,” Mr Holland said.

“The tear stone and the paw prints symbolise the remembrance of military dogs. Through their playfulness and curiosity, their intelligence and insight, their bravery and their faithfulness, they made a profound impact.”

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