Diesel, the 7-year old Belgian Malinois dog killed by terrorists during the November 18 attacks in Paris will be posthumously presented with the prestigious Dickin Medal for gallantry. The award was instituted in 1943 by Maria Dickin, founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a British veterinary charity to honor animals that fought for the British Empire during World War II. It is considered to be the highest animal honor in the world and the equivalent of the Victoria Cross military decoration.
“The extreme circumstances in Paris and the way that Diesel led from the front when the French authorities were trying to uncover the terror cell following the attacks was a prime example of an animal – albeit trained for this task – who was put into harm’s way and in doing so paid the ultimate sacrifice,” stated PDSA spokesman Deryck Wilson during an interview with Yahoo News. “According to the French authorities, he was instrumental in preventing further loss of life.”
Diesel, who served with the French National Research, Assistance, Intervention and Deterrence special anti-terrorism force, was part of a raid of an apartment in the suburb of Saint-Denis where the suspected ringleader and 6 other terrorists were hiding. He was send into the apartment after a sporadic gunfire seemed to quiet down and check if the coast was clear.
According to a news release issued by his handler (name withheld for security reasons), Diesel “did a tour of the first room, then he went into the second room and dashed forward. I think he’d found someone. Then I lost sight of him, and the gunfire started again.”
The dog was pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds at 10 a.m. local time. His death inspired the #JeSuisChien hashtag, which means, “I am dog.”
Diesel’s job was to clear the way for his human team members. He was trained to detect if anyone is present, and to attack him or her if he could get to them. If not, he stood and barked to indicate where the person is hiding. The decision to honor him was the direct result of a formal nomination by The Sun newspaper.A few days after his death, Russia made an announcement that it was presenting a German shepherd puppy named Dobrynya to France, not only to honor Diesel’s memory, but also to show “solidarity with the French people and the police in the fight against terrorism.”
Note: The first recipients of the Dickin Medal were 3 pigeons, serving with the Royal Air Force, all of whom contributed to the recovery of air crew from ditched aircraft during World War II. As of December 2015, the Dickin Medal has been awarded 66 times.