By Calvin Palmer
A British Army Springer spaniel, used to sniff out explosive devices in Afghanistan, died of “a broken heart” three hours after his handler was killed while out on patrol.
Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, 26, of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, was shot while on patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan on March 1.
His dog, Theo, died from a seizure three hours after seeing his master killed.
L/Cpl Tasker’s family said they believe the dog died from a broken heart.
The body of L/Cpl Tasker, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, and the ashes of Theo had earlier been flown back to RAF Lyneham in the same aircraft.
Hundreds of mourners, with their dogs in tow, lined the streets of Wootton Bassett to pay their respects.
L/Cpl Tasker suffered fatal injuries in a firefight with the Taliban, while Theo died after returning to Camp Bastion, the main British military base.
Theo had detected 14 hidden bombs and weapons caches in just five months on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The 22-month-old spaniel’s success at finding Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) meant his stay in the country was extended by a month.
L/Cpl Tasker and Theo were described as inseparable.
Liam’s father, Ian, said: “My honest opinion on this is, when Liam went down, that Theo didn’t have the comfort from Liam to calm him down.
“I truly believe when Theo went back to the kennel, that would have a big, big impact because Liam wasn’t there to comfort him.”
His mother Jane Duffy added: “I would like to believe he (Theo) died of a broken heart to be with Liam.”
Lt Col Chris Ham, of Royal Army Veterinary Corps, said: “Liam was a professional soldier, he was a professional dog handler and a professional dog trainer.
“All our handlers working in Afghanistan or the rest of the world, must have a very close bond with their working dogs because literally their life and other people’s lives depend on that dog.”
L/Cpl Tasker was the 358th member of the British Armed Forces to die since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001, while Theo was the sixth British military dog killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.