Retired military dog Kuno is to receive the prestigious PDSA Dickin Medal for valour – the animal Victoria Cross – after he was wounded in action while heroically saving the lives of British Forces fighting Al Qaeda. During a dangerous operation in 2019, three-year-old Belgian Shepherd Malinois Kuno and his handler were deployed in support of specialist UK and host nation forces on a compound raid against a well-armed and aggressive enemy when they came under attack. Pinned down by grenade and machine-gun fire from an insurgent, the assault force was unable to move without taking casualties.
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. During the assault Kuno was wounded by bullets in both back legs. He was given life-saving treatment by his handler and by medics in the back of a helicopter. His injuries were so severe he required several operations before he was stable enough to fly back to the UK. Sadly, part of one of Kuno’s rear paws had to be amputated to prevent life-threatening infection. But now he is thriving after becoming the first UK military working dog to be fitted with custom made prosthetic limbs.
Kuno returned home aboard an RAF plane, receiving in-flight care from a Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC) team. Back in the UK he was transferred to the Defence Animal Training Regiment in Melton Mowbray where he underwent extensive reconstructive surgery, overseen by Professor Dick White, one of the world’s leading specialists in canine surgery. Under the painstaking care of Army vets, veterinary nurses and canine physiotherapists, assisted by staff from the University of Nottingham, Kuno then embarked upon an innovative and lengthy programme of rehabilitation to restore function to his nerves and muscles, just like injured service personnel.
Kuno was a friendly and enthusiastic patient throughout, he loves human interaction and especially enjoyed his sessions on the hydrotherapy treadmill. Within months, he was strong enough to be fitted with a pioneering custom-made prosthesis to replace his missing paw, alongside an orthotic brace to support his injured limb. Kuno, who was on his second deployment when he was injured, is the first UK military dog to be fitted with such devices. Now retired and rehomed, Kuno will receive the PDSA Dickin Medal, the highest animal honour in existence for military animal valour, which will be formally presented by PDSA, the UK’s leading veterinary charity who run the world’s most prestigious animal awards programme, in a virtual ceremony in November.