Diesel, the now-famous police dog killed leading a police raid on a terrorist cell in Paris in November, will be honored with a medal for gallantry.
The Belgian Malinois will be awarded the Dickin Medal, considered to be the highest animal honor in the world. Presented by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), the medal is considered the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded for valor "in the face of the enemy."
Diesel was part of the elite French Research, Assistance, Intervention and Deterrence unit. He was part of a siege on a suburban apartment targeting terrorists involved in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks. Diesel was sent into an apartment ahead of officers, where police say he was shot and killed by terrorists and likely saved the life of his handler.
Diesel's handler, whose name has been withheld for security reasons, said in a news release that sporadic gunfire had been coming from the apartment. The team decided to send Diesel in first to see if things were clear.
“He 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. His role was to open the way for the rest of us. He uses all his senses to detect if anyone is present and if he can get to them, to go and bite them. If not, he stands and barks to indicate where the person is hiding," Diesel's handler said.
“I had absolute confidence in him, and him in me. Both of us knew how the other would behave in the situation.”
Diesel died from multiple gunshot wounds. His death inspired the hashtag #JeSuisChien ("I am dog") on social media across the globe. In the aftermath, Russia sent a police dog puppy to France as a gift to honor Diesel and to show solidarity with the people of France.
“Following the tragic terrorist events in Paris last month, where many innocent people lost their lives, Diesel was instrumental in helping the French police locate and deal with the perpetrators. When news emerged of Diesel’s death there was a huge outpouring of grief," said PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin.
"As guardians of the world’s most prestigious animal awards programme, we were inundated by messages from members of the public to recognise his heroism. The PDSA Dickin Medal recognises conspicuous devotion to duty in the theatre of conflict and Diesel is a truly deserving recipient. His gallant actions helped to protect human life in the face of imminent danger, and we are very proud to honour him in this way.”
Since the medal's introduction in 1943, it has been awarded to 30 dogs (including Diesel), 32 World War II messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat. The award is named after PDSA founder Maria Dickin.
The formal presentation of Diesel’s Dickin Medal will take place in 2016.