At 14 years of age, Jeep the military service dog was up bright and early on Anzac Day - petsitterbank

At 14 years of age, Jeep the military service dog was up bright and early on Anzac Day

Among the many thousands across the country who rose early this morning to take part in Anzac Day dawn services was a 14-year-old Belgian shepherd named Jeep.

Retired military working dog Jeep and his handler, Lauren Marshall at Melbourne’s Anzac Day dawn service.(ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)

Jeep’s partner in service, Lauren Marshall, stirred the aging dog from warm blankets to make the journey into Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance for the first full-scale service since COVID began.

Before leaving, she pinned onto Jeep’s coat a medal the dog earned for years of service in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), as well as a purple poppy to honor the many thousands of animals that have died in military service.

“It was extremely important to come down here,” she said.

“Jeep is approaching the end of his life.”

Ms Marshall said she was lucky to have Jeep by her side not just during six years of RAAF service, but also during the COVID pandemic.

When many Anzac Day events were cancelled, people were encouraged to hold private services at the front of their homes.

“The last two years were really hard, obviously,” she said.

“The driveway service was difficult, it was lonely.

“I had to get him here.”

A woman in military uniform and a dog with their faces in close while posing for a photo.
Ms Marshall said it was hard not to get attached to a military working dog like Jeep after many years together.(Supplied)

Ms Marshall has served all over the world and said it was very important for people to come together on Anzac Day, particularly to support veterans.

She said she used the day to reflect on the past, as well as thinking about her friends who were still serving.

“When you leave, it’s [about] the afterwards, looking after veterans later on.

“I think it’s really important that it happens.”

Jeep helped with search for missing MH370

For Ms Marshall, bringing Jeep along to the service was important to help people remember the role animals play in Australia’s defense forces.

“Sometimes I feel like they’re not recognized as much as they deserve to be,” she said.

As well as the hundreds of thousands of horses that have served in Australia’s defense forces since the Boer War, when more than 16,000 were sent out of the country to serve, many dogs, pigeons, camels and donkeys have also worked alongside military personnel.

A close-up of a dog's coat with a military medal and a purple flower.
The purple poppy commemorates the contributions animals have made during wartime.(ABC News)

Jeep was trained as a guard dog, and a lot of his service with the RAAF involved protecting assets such as aircraft.

During six years of service, one of Jeep’s most notable contributions was assisting with the search for missing flight MH370 in the wake of its disappearance in 2014.

Ms Marshall said Jeep had been a very competent military working dog since she began the pooch’s training at age two.

“It’s always emotional,” she said.

“They say not to get attached, but of course you do – you’re with them all the time.”

A close-up profile of a dog wearing a coat and a woman with blonde hair.
Lots of strangers asked about Jeep’s military service at the Melbourne dawn service.(ABC News)

She said Jeep, who will turn 15 in October, was pleased by the attention from passers-by at this morning’s service.

“As soon as they see him they’re drawn to him, they want to pat him and ask questions and want to know what he’s done and what we’ve done and what his medal is for,” Ms Marshall said.

“He’s still very alert for an old boy, as you can see.”

Ms Marshall said she felt honored to have been able to work with her loyal dog.

“Jeep is and has been my rock over the many years serving and now as veterans,” she said.

“I’m just thrilled I was able to keep my promise, and give him the life he deserves.

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