There was a time when troublesome young men were often sent to the military as a way to ‘straighten them out’ and ‘instil some discipline’.
Serving time in the armed forces was sometimes given as an alternative to prison by the courts. Indeed, the entire ethos of the formidable French Foreign Legion is based on giving a new start to those who may have been in trouble in the past.
It seems the same may apply to dogs too. Cheese the kelpie, for example, was well-known to staff at Campbelltown Council’s Animal Care Facility in southwest Sydney as a serial escape artist.
He could climb and jump fences of any height, finding himself back at the shelter on numerous occasions after several attempts to re-home him.
Staff thought he had better things in store
Fortunately for Cheese, the staff at the facility noticed his intense prey-drive and love of catching and retrieving, and believed there could be better things in store for him than being a Campbelltown canine miscreant.
So in 2019 they contacted Holsworthy Army Barracks to have him assessed for his suitability as an explosives detection dog (EDD).
Cheese impressed the Army handlers and, after an intensive training program, the lively pooch with a love for fetch has found a new use for his energy after becoming a fully certified EDD. He has now been posted to the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment in Darwin.
The regiment’s EDD Section Commander, Corporal Kim James, said dogs were recruited from a variety of different avenues.
Army Engineers constantly need more dogs
“We use a mixture of breeders and rescues to identify potential dogs,” James explained. “From there we screen for key traits to ensure we get a dog that will pass the course.”
According to the Army, there are many stories like Cheese’s in the Royal Australian Engineers, as each EDD detachment is constantly on the lookout for dogs to be trained.
“This story is a great testament to the dedication and work of our staff, who show great care for all the animals who come through our facility,” Campbelltown’s Mayor, George Brticevic said.
“Cheese will now be cared for and serve a great purpose protecting our soldiers and potentially saving lives.”