Trained to sniff out IEDs and lead patrols to safety, Hobo has been in Helmand for two months, saving the lives of countless soldiers and marines.
But, on a recent patrol in Nahr-e Saraj, the roles were reversed, and it was up to Hobo’s patrol to save his life.
Hobo was deployed on an operation in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province when the patrol he was on came under sustained small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenade attacks. Led by Hobo, the patrol took cover in a compound to wait for back up, but, within minutes, a grenade had been thrown over the compound wall.
The insurgents had crept up through dense vegetation to the rear of the compound, unseen by the patrol’s sentries. Hobo was resting flat on the ground, and the fragmentation flew over his head missing him completely, but then came a second, third and fourth attack, and Hobo was hit three times.
Captain George Shipman, serving with 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, attached to A Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, was on the patrol that day. He said:
There were four loud explosions, the dust was kicked up, and it was difficult to see what was happening. We realised quickly that Hobo had been hit. He was bleeding heavily from the base of his neck.
I administered a blood-clotting agent and applied pressure and a field dressing to stem the bleeding and protect from infection. Hobo remained really calm throughout and just stood there while we treated him.
With shrapnel wounds to his neck, abdomen and rear end, Hobo’s patrol began giving him life-saving first aid. The heat of the shrapnel had cauterised two of the injuries, but he was bleeding heavily after shrapnel cut straight through his neck. Captain Shipman added:
I found it hard - harder than treating a human casualty - because I couldn’t explain what was going on. Hobo’s become one of us, bounding around the patrol base all the time; so we’re very fond of him - I’ve also got a two-year-old black Lab, Oscar, at home and Hobo reminds me so much of him.
During the incident a few members of the patrol also sustained fragmentation injuries, none of which were serious. As a result a casualty evacuation helicopter mission was called in.
Within 50 minutes Hobo was on a Pedro - the nickname for the daredevil American Black Hawk helicopters that fly into the midst of a fire fight to rescue the wounded - and on his way back to the first class veterinary care provided at Camp Bastion; comparable to the best facilities in UK vet surgeries.
Private Patrick Medhurst-Feeney, a Veterinary Technician with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, said:
When we got the news, we set up for surgery immediately and prepared all of the equipment because we didn’t know the extent of his injuries, so we planned for every eventuality.
We met him off the helicopter and got him back to surgery. We checked his wounds and then got him straight onto fluids because of the blood loss. We needed to make sure he didn’t go into shock, which would have caused complications.
Miraculously, two days later, Hobo was astounding the veterinary team:
The first aid administered by Captain Shipman and his patrol meant that no surgery was required. Hobo has recovered fantastically well. He’s an athletic 33kg, and is bounding around as if nothing had happened. The prognosis is very positive. He’s in great shape,” said Private Medhurst-Feeney.
We won’t remove the shrapnel from the abdomen. The wound will heal nicely and Hobo will be back out on the ground, detecting IEDs and saving soldiers’ lives again in no time; hopefully in time for his third birthday on the 1st of August.
And indeed, Hobo is back with A Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles. Gurkha Rifleman Corporal Arjun Limbu said:
It’s great to have him back with us. It’s a real morale-boost, and he’s running around just like before.
Dogs such as Hobo are ‘battle inoculated’ against loud noises and explosions. Thanks to this specialist training he won’t suffer any associated trauma, and will shortly return to duty on the front line in Afghanistan. He is due to return to the UK in November to begin his next role as a demonstration dog.