Links - Home

Second from the left Rita Diplock and on the far right Bob Cleaver the soldier who trained Caeser before he served in Vietnam


© Rita Diplock

He’d had his twentieth birthday; he was young and fancy free.

He had a job he liked, a loving home and family,

But he was taken from them with no recourse to debate.

A number on a marble was the instrument of fate.

His plans to build a future were at best now put on hold,

Conscripted to the army, he would do as he was told.

He was trained to be a soldier and sent to fight a war

With no clear understanding of what he was fighting for.

The killing fields of Vietnam had trip wires, traps and pits

And passive land mines lay in wait to blow a man to bits.

The army had decided dogs were needed in this war.

They’d train the dogs and use them in a way not done before.

They had no breeding programs and dogs must be got with speed

So from the nearby pound came dogs bought cheap to fill the need.

And there was one that caught their eye that they could not ignore.

From death row for a pittance came this matchless dog of war.

When from a helicopter he was winched down though the air

Or riding in the trucks and tanks, he’d never turn a hair.

With flying colours while he trained, that dog passed every test

And when they teamed the man and dog, he knew he’d got the best.

The dog with its keen senses picked up trails he could not see.

The soldier learned to follow on and trust implicitly.

Unheeding of distraction with his nose down to the ground

He’d drag his handler onward till the quarry had been found.

At times the dog would look at him, head over to one side

And with the way he did it could encourage or deride.

He’d sit upon the soldier’s foot when danger lay ahead.

He did that often, often, if he hadn’t they’d be dead.

And sometimes in the night when there were shells exploding near

The soldier stayed beside the dog to calm him in his fear,

And though it meant he’d have to stay with him the whole night through

He didn’t think it duty; it was what a mate would do.

And every night the soldier checked his dog from nose to tail

To find the little injuries he’d picked up on the trail.

For wounds could soon turn septic, as did stinging insect bites,

The steamy jungle spawning ground for bugs and parasites.

The dog would always play a game when it was time to eat.

He’d bring his dish across and lay it at the soldier’s feet.

And as the soldier made the meal he’d talk and tease his mate,

The dog would wait, tongue lolling out for him to fill the plate.

His tour of duty almost done and counting down the days

The soldier planned to keep the dog, a team of two always.

His faithful dog had earned a rest the tired soldier knew,

As he was battle weary so his canine mate was too.

His safe return back home the answer to his parents’ prayer,

A cross-bred dog the guardian that kept him in its care.

But then his world turned upside down the day he was to find

Though he was going home, his faithful dog would stay behind.

He begged and argued for the dog but no reprieve could gain,

The army was inflexible; his efforts were in vain.

And when he went to see the dog the day he went away

He’d planned to give him one last meal and one last game to play.

Before he got inside the fence, the dog saw him and came

First picking up its empty dish and eager for a game.

And as he looked into its eyes it looked into his mind.

He knew the dog could tell that he was being left behind.

The soldier couldn’t hold that gaze and had to turn away

For there was nothing he could change and nothing he could say.

Then right between the shoulder blades it hit him as he went,

The ringing sound of metal as it’s dropped onto cement.

When later on that day he left upon an Army plane

He made a vow that one day he would find his dog again.

The joy of going home was gone and seeking for relief,

Elixir from a bottle helped to numb the soldier’s grief.

Back home again and in a job, small peace could this man find.

He has a lasting legacy, a restless, switched on mind.

And when the war was over though he tried to trace his mate

Was always unsuccessful and still wonders on its fate.

And still he thinks about the dog, although by now it’s dead

And then the sound of metal on cement plays in his head.

And sometimes when he drinks too much, he thinks that sound to kill,

But still it follows him around; he thinks it always will.

I wish to always hold copyright.

Regards © Rita Diplock


He was a dog with no name, and he was facing the needle in a dog refuge home in Sydney.

On a fortuitous day in 1966 two Army officers came to that dog refuge, they found the lop-eared larrikin on death row. They paid for him, named him Caesar and the rest is history.

Caesar went on to become the top Australian tracking dog of the Vietnam War. If a dog could have character it was this canine, a mongrel combination of Labrador and Kelpie, a dog who could - and would - go the hard yards.

A dog, who by any soldiers standards, was a war hero throughout his lengthy tour of duty with successive Aussie combat tracking teams in Vietnam. I came to know him as a friend and companion in a time of strife and stress in the war.

At the end of my year's tour with 2 RAR I came home, Caesar stayed and became best mates with another soldier/handler.

That process was repeated several times before Caesar was finally pensioned off to a "diplomatic post" in Saigon in 1971.

Proudly hosted by