Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Detecting explosives a 'big game' for dogs in Bamiyan

Explosive detection dog handler Lance Corporal Regan Blogg and EDD Yardley. Photo / New Zealand Defence Force
Explosive detection dog handler Lance Corporal Regan Blogg and EDD Yardley. Photo / New Zealand Defence Force

For Chuck and Yardley, the explosive-sniffing dogs of Bamiyan, nothing could be more fun than discovering a bomb on the side of the road.

The two much-loved muts have been working with the New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan, searching for explosives in what is one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world.

Their keeper, Lance Corporal Regan Blogg, said it was "like Christmas" when the dogs sniffed out an explosive, because they got rewarded with a rubber ball.

"They love it. To them it's just a big game. They want to get out and they want to get that ball."

They can detect explosives from up to 80 metres away, and when they do, they sit next to the device, being careful not to touch it.

"They just scan the ground and I've got my eyes on them all the time looking for any change of behaviour. If they're certain on something they'll indicate.

"Wherever the actual explosive is they know they need to get right to it, not touch it and just sit there with it. They don't want to spoil their chances of getting a ball."

A dog and its nose were far more effective than any human-made device, Lance Corporal Blogg said.

"They never go flat, especially him over there (Chuck). He'll work at 100 per cent, eight hours a day, seven days a week. He just keeps going."

Yardley, who was "a lot more demure in his attitude", had had a series of unfortunate incidents since arriving in Afghanistan.

"He's had his leg caught in some wire, he ate rat poison so he had to get flown down to BAF [Bagram Air Field] to get his stomach pumped.

"Chuck's good, he's as hard as nails. But Yardley, it's like he's had his two strikes. What's going to be the third one?"

Lance Corporal Blogg's team leader Lieutenant Mike Clulow added: "We were nervous taking Yardley to the solar panel site today. I had to clarify whether there was live electricity around because if anyone was going to stand on it, it's going to be Yardley."

He said everyone on the base loved seeing the dogs and giving them a pat.

"They're great for everyone's welfare."

Lance Corporal Blogg said Chuck, a Springer-Cocker Spaniel cross and Yardley, a Labrador, were his best mates, and when he was giving commands at work it was like they were having a conversation.

"I'm not a morning person - I struggle to get up in the morning - but then when you come down here and see them, you're away laughing."

The dogs will be in quarantine for six weeks before going to Wellington with Lance Corporal Blogg.

- APNZ

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