At Fred Says, one of our main projects is to document the stories of people who credit their dogs for saving their lives. For Buster—a 13-year-old English Springer Spaniel who passed away last week—there are some 1,000 people whose lives are owed to his service.
Buster was trained with the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom to sniff out IED’s, ammunition, and other weapons. Throughout five tours in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Iraq, he saved more than 1,000 lives.
Flight Sergeant Will Barrow—who was partnered with Buster throughout their active duty—wrote a memoir, titled Buster: The Dog Who Saved A Thousand Lives, as a tribute to their partnership. In it, Barrow recalls the dog’s greatest triumph: a house raid in which he tracked down suicide vests primed for detonation. Two bomb-makers and two teenage would-be bombers were arrested as a result.
Buster was recognized for his service. In 2003, he was awarded the Dickin Medal (Victoria Cross) for military service, and in 2012, he was awarded the Crutts Friends For Life. He was also named the lifetime mascot for Royal Air Force Police.
But Buster’s work went beyond his job description.
In 2007, on their first tour together in Afghanistan, Sergeant Barrow said Buster could often be found with a trail of local children in tow. In what could be an unwelcoming community, to say the least, it seems that a dog’s sweet, smiling face could soften people beyond the lines of war.
Furthermore, Barrow credits Buster for helping him stay calm and focused in times of stress or danger.
“My main concern was always the little fella, because if he had been injured, my role was non-existent,” he said. “As much as I relied on him not to walk us into IEDs, he needed me to feed and water him.”
When asked about his partner, Flight Sergeant Barrow said, “He saved my life every day we were together. I owe him so much that I can never repay the debt, even if we lived forever.”