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by Judi McLeod
December 16, 2002

In the childrens’ nursery rhyme it was the pussycat that went off to London to visit the Queen.

The life of the gallant Alex, a three-year-old German Shepherd dog, who works as a landmine detection dog, is not the stuff of nursery rhymes.

The canine, Canadian trained and sponsored, travelled from Bosnia to participate in the Festival of Ontario in early October. The festival was the province’s fete for Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee visit to Toronto.

Dogs the world over find loving homes in palaces like Buckingham and in the humble sharecropper’s shack.

For the long trip to Ontario, Alex was accompanied by his trainer, Hamilton native Syd Murray of the Canadian International Demining Corps (CIDC) and Darko Budnicic, his Bosnian handler, in a display of working and service dogs from across the province.

It’s not everyday a canine gets to meet a queen, but Alex is no ordinary dog. Due to their diligent work in Bosnia, he and his tail-wagging friends have saved untold thousands of human lives, all of it for the odd pat on the head.

"We were thrilled to have this opportunity to introduce Alex to Her Majesty and this acknowledgement of the life-saving work mine detection dogs do," said David Horton, Executive Director of the Sydney, N.S.-based CIDC.

For Her Majesty’s pleasure, Alex joined 18 other highly skilled dogs from 10 organizations including RCMP and OPP canine units, Canada Customs Labrador retrievers, Canada Food Inspection Agency beagles, search and rescue volunteers, St. John Ambulance therapy dogs, and guide and assistance dogs for physically challenged adults and children.

Alex, who clued in right away on the queen’s love of dogs including the royal family’s beloved Corgis, charms them all, be they prince or pauper.

CIDC, founded in 1996, currently fields over 40 specially trained explosive detection dog teams in Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia. Working with client demining organizations, and with generous financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Canadian Landmine Foundation, CIDC’s expertise enables local personnel to work with these amazing dogs to seek out deadly landmines buried in the ground.

Television detectives like Colombo have nothing on these dog detectives, who, when it comes to sniffing out imminent danger, are the real McCoys.

When working in the minefields, Alex and his four-legged colleagues search the ground working in 100 square meter grids, and they are trained to sit when they detect even trace elements of explosives contained in landmines or other unexploded ordnance.

The use of dogs complements other mine detection methods using heavy equipment and manual mine detectors, and can be up to 10 times faster than manual methods alone An experienced dog and handler can search and clear up to 1,000 square meters of land a day. There are an estimated 30,000 minefields and 1,000,000 landmines left in Bosnia as remnants of civil war. No CIDC-trained dog or handler has ever been killed or injured doing this work.

Alex and his canine partner Fanny are the first two CIDC dogs sponsored by the Toronto-based Canadian Landmine Demine program. The CLF is the only private sector non-profit organization devouted exclusively to raising funds for the eradication of landmines worldwide.

In addition to his participating in the Royal event, Alex, his handler and trainer made a video of their work and visited Grade 12 Peace and Conflict Studies students at David and Mary Thompson Collegiate in Scarborough.

Meanwhile his meeting with the Queen of England behind him, Alex is headed back to what he does best, sniffing out landmines in Bosnia.

Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on, Drudge Report,, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]

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