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Retiring Dog of War

Buster and his owner/handler RAF Police Sergeant Michael Barrow are now enjoying a quieter life. (Photo by Corporal Scott Robertson)

Being an Armaments & Explosives Search (AES) Dog is a tough job. Air Dog Buster braved bombs and bullets during five operational tours of duty in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The English Springer Spaniel saved countless Royal Air Force member's lives by sniffing out explosive vests which lead to the arrest of two suicide bombers. He was often found patrolling alongside his fellow officers through the poppy fields hunting Taliban insurgents and tracking down booby trap bombs left behind for both the British and American troops.

Even in the face of enemy attacks, Buster always showed composure. "Each time [we were attacked], Buster waited calmly for the action to cease, then carried on his search for improvised explosive devices, and keeping patrols safe," says his handler RAF Police Sergeant Michael "Will" Barrow.

During his down time, Buster would wander around the camp and make friends with as many as possible. He was able to help keep morale up during wartime.

But now Buster is retiring and will spend the rest of his days with Sergeant Barrow and his family in Lincolnshire, England, which includes another Springer and a German Shepherd. Like many military men, there is an adjustment to life away from the war zone and this also holds true for Buster. "We had to teach Buster to play with the other dogs," said Sergeant Barrow. "When he was a working dog, he only got toys when he made a find. And when he came home he collected up all the dogs' toys and became very protective of them."

The Springer has earned several campaign medals for his service and is retiring a military hero. Although he may not be in the military anymore, he will now become the RAF Police mascot. Buster was also the winner of the Friends For Life Competition last year which was presented during the Crufts Dog Show.

"Friends for Life is a competition where we celebrate dogs that have truly earned the title of man's best friend through bravery, support or companionship," explains Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club spokesperson. "All the dogs nominated have shown unfailing loyalty and spirit in their constant desire to help, and are a great example of the incredible difference that dogs can make to our lives."

When asked about the win, Barrow said, "It's absolutely fantastic, I am so pleased, more for Buster as it's a culmination of a fantastic career. There is nothing like the bond we have - he has literally saved my life."