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article imageLife-saving Spanish police dog receives top award from PDSA

By Anne Sewell     Jun 11, 2013 in World
Madrid - The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) in the UK has awarded a prestigious international prize to a German Shepherd dog named Ajax, who works with the Spanish Guardia Civil bomb squad.
Ajax will receive the award for detecting bombs placed by the Basque terrorist group ETA on the Spanish island of Mallorca in July 2009.
Ajax and his handler were charged with protecting the King of Spain. On July 30, 2009, just days before the King's annual visit to the island, there was a terrorist attack near a Guardia Civil (civil guard) station in Palma Nova, Mallorca.
During the attack, perpetrated by ETA, an explosion took the lives of two Guardia Civil officers, Carlos Garcia Saenz de Tejada and Diego Salva Lezáun.
Due to anticipation of further attacks, Ajax's handler, Sergeant Juan Carlos Alabarces Muñoz and other Civil Guards were assigned to search for other bombs and were sent to the Civil Guard barracks in Palma Nova.
Ajax very quickly found a concealed bomb, attached to the underside of a vehicle near to the barracks. Officers evacuated the area and carried out a successful controlled explosion of the bomb. The shrapnel apparently scattered over an area of 100 meters.
According to Ajax's handler, Muñoz: “The bomb had been planted with the sole intention of killing more Guardia Civil personnel. "
"If Ajax had touched any part of the bomb, he would have activated its motion sensor and been killed along with myself and everyone else within range of the bomb," he added.
Ajax continued the search and several hours later, found yet another bomb under a vehicle in the same area.
"The bomb was planted specifically to kill or injure those rescuing the casualties from the first explosion. The targeted vehicle was parked on a public road, close to several hotels. If Ajax had not found the bomb in time, the outcome would have been tragic," said Muñoz, adding that "Ajax and I have worked together for over nine years – we’re partners and we understand each other very well."
"This strong relationship means that even with one small look or signal from him I know straight away that he is telling me something," he said.
"It is wonderful to see his actions rewarded with the PDSA Gold Medal – there is no other medal quite like this which truly recognizes and honors the role of animals in society.”
Due to his heroism, Ajax will be honored on Tuesday with a Gold Medal by the UK animal charity, the PDSA. This award is given to an animal who is instrumental in saving human or animal life, while endangering its own life, or for outstanding devotion to duty.
"The PDSA Gold Medal is recognized as the animals’ George Cross and it is the highest honour for ‘civilian’ bravery," Jessica Richardson of the PDSA told The Local.
"Our awards are based on nominations, which are then carefully assessed," Richardson explained.
"We give out awards most years, but sometimes there are no worthy candidates."
According to the PDSA, only 21 dogs have so far received this prestigious prize and Ajax is the first Spanish recipient. The 10-year-old bomb sniffing dog Ajax will receive the medal at a ceremony in Madrid in the presence of his handler, Sergeant Muñoz.
PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said of Ajax:
“Ajax is a most worthy recipient of the PDSA Gold Medal, which acknowledges extreme acts of courage and dedication in civilian situations. His actions on that day, in the terrifying aftermath of the first bombing, undoubtedly saved many lives."
“He now joins an elite group of the world’s most courageous animals. Each story is a unique account of bravery that both moves and inspires.”
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