By Brendan Rees
They’re the unsung heroes, tirelessly helping others without asking much in return – except for a loving pat.
In honour of their services, a memorial was unveiled at KCC Park in Skye on Sunday 8 July which paid tribute to all defence and service dogs that have died while serving in the protection of Australia and its citizens.
The event, organised by the Service Dogs Memorial Committee and Dogs Victoria, was officiated by the patron of Dogs Victoria, Peter Hitchener OAM.
Dignitaries included City of Casey Mayor Cr Geoff Ablett and Deputy Mayor Amanda Stapledon who laid tribute wreathes for all dogs that have given their lives. The Last Post was performed at the conclusion of the ceremony.
More than a million dogs have served the country with the Australian Defence Force since WWI.
Service Dogs Memorial Committee founder Merilyn Syme OAM said the memorial provided a permanent tribute dedicated to the courage and sacrifice of canines.
“We felt we should have something acknowledging our passion we feel about our dogs to honour all dogs,” she said.
“It is extremely important; it’s taken us a couple of years to raise the money. We’re very proud and very grateful for the people turning out today.
“We admire the ability of all breeds of dogs and we want to look after their future and their welfare,” Ms Syme said.
Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation President Nigel Allsopp said the memorial was a great opportunity to recognise the outstanding contribution of Australia’s war and service dogs.
“They’re out there serving the community literally every hour so it’s vitally important that we honour two legged diggers that have served our nation,” he said.
Mr Allsopp, who also worked as a Queensland police dog handler for the past 26 years, said assistance dogs were also helping returned soldiers recover from PTSD: “They’re working for us even after war which is great.”
City of Casey Mayor Geoff Ablett said he was honoured to be a part of the ceremony.
“Dogs were often put in really dangerous situations, I think it’s only fitting that we honour them. It was very similar to an Anzac day ceremony, it was terrific,” he said.
“They’re the unsung heroes in a wide range of things doing an amazing job. They really are man’s best friend.”
“We were absolutely wrapped to be invited and be apart of it.”
Peter Hitchener OAM said the event was very moving. “Service dogs have contributed so much to the country and our community, whether they be the services or police or customs, they’re just wonderful,” he said.