A TUG of love has broken out between the Australian Army and the original owners of Sarbi, the heroic bomb detection dog.
Sarbi was missing in action for 14 months in the wilds of Afghanistan after a major battle in September 2008, and is due back in Australia before Christmas after spending six months in quarantine in Dubai.
Sarbi will then have to spend another 30 days at the Eastern Creek isolation centre near Sydney and, on receiving a clean bill of health, will be handed back to the Army in January to return to work.
But original owner Wendy Upjohn, who gave Sarbi and her brother Rafiki to the army when they moved from the country to the city, has written to the Defence Minister seeking the return of the dog after her military service is over.
The Army approached the family about the two-year-old dogs when they were seeking a home for them in 2004.
Ms Upjohn explained that when a corporal came to collect the dogs he told the family they would be able to claim them back “in about five years”, when their service was finished.
“Unfortunately there was nothing in writing,” she said.
The Army has told Ms Upjohn the policy was for the dog’s handler to have first dibs on a retired mutt.
“If he wants her then fair enough; we just wanted her back as a family pet,” she said.
The Army denies any such undertaking was given and says the dog will remain with her handler, Sgt Dave S, and his family when she retires.