It's a tale worthy of a movie script.

Sarbi, the army explosives detection dog, goes missing in action in Afghanistan. After 13 months lost in a war zone, she is found by chance and brought home to be awarded the RSPCA Purple Cross for bravery.

The labrador’s adventure began back in 2008 when she was out on patrol in Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province with her handler.

Sarbi and her comrades were attacked by insurgents in a battle which left nine soldiers, including her handler, wounded.

During the battle, in which Lance Corporal Mark Donaldson earned the Victoria Cross, a rocket-propelled grenade broke the lead that tethered Sarbi to her handler.

After numerous attempts to find the dog, she was declared missing in action and her handler returned to Australia thinking he would never see her again.

Thirteen months later a US soldier out on patrol in the area where Sarbi went missing spotted a black labrador walking with a local villager, an unusual sight in Afghanistan.

A quick check of her microchip confirmed the dog was indeed Sarbi, and after a long stay in quarantine she was returned to Australia and reunited with her handler.

Sarbi is only the eighth animal to receive the prestigious Purple Cross for outstanding service to humans. She joins the likes of Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick’s famous donkey Murphy who helped save wounded ANZAC soldiers during the battle of Gallipoli.

RSPCA President Lynne Bradshaw presented Sarbi with the medal on Tuesday at a ceremony attended by Chief of the Army, Lieutenant-General Ken Gillespie.

"I think there is no doubt that Sarbi has shown an incredible strength and resilience that should be recognised," Ms Bradshaw said.

Sporting a new coat in the bright green of her special forces unit and with two campaign medals pinned to her side, Sarbi was presented with her Purple Cross in front of the Animals in War Memorial at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

© AAP 2011