Animals honoured in memorial service at Canungra

RESPECT: Nadia O'Carroll and Virginia West lay a wreath at the Canungra animal memorial. Photo: Katherine O'Brien
RESPECT: Nadia O'Carroll and Virginia West lay a wreath at the Canungra animal memorial. Photo: Katherine O'Brien

THE National Day for War Animals on February 24 saw people in Canungra turn up wearing their purple poppies to pay respects in the rain to fallen friends.

Canungra RSL sub-branch president Colin Lee said the event was well attended.

"We had a nice little crowd, even though the weather was terrible," he said.

"In attendance were members of the Light Horse Association as well as two RAAF working dogs, Cowboy and Shannon, who with their handlers laid a wreath on behalf of Australian Defence Force working dogs."

Mr Lee said Land Warfare Centre commandant Colonel Arran Hassell also laid a wreath on behalf of Kokoda Barracks and the ADF.

"Councillors Virgina West and Nadia O'Carroll laid wreath, both of them are strong supporters of local veterans," he said.

"Both were involved with erecting this new memorial to animals at Canungra.

"It was a wonderful morning and gave everybody the opportunity to remember our four and two-legged friends who served side by side in war."

This came after the Australian War Memorial in Canberra this week unveiled a new memorial dedicated to, and created by, military working dogs and their handlers.

The memorial titled Circling into sleep was unveiled on February 24 in the Memorial's Sculpture Garden to honour generations of dogs who had served, given their unconditional loyalty and, in many cases, their lives, to a common cause.

Acting Director of the Australian War Memorial Major General Brian Dawson (retired) said the new memorial served as a reminder of the invaluable contribution of military working dogs, as well as the special bond between dogs and their handlers.

"The Australian Defence Force has a long tradition of working with dogs, from the first world war through to operations in places such as Afghanistan, East Timor and Somalia," he said.

"In 2017, the ADF commissioned the Canine Operations Service Medal, becoming the first military in the world to specifically recognise and honour the contributions of military working dogs."

Circling into sleep was created by renowned artist Steven Holland, with help from an explosive detection dog called Billie and her handler.

Billie was trained to walk in a tight circle on a bed of soft clay to create the paw-print track which spirals into the memorial, representing the steps of a dog as it circles into sleep.

"This is the dogs' memorial. It is low to the ground and humble," Mr Holland said.