Winners of 'Public Choice' Award

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Are we really THAT different?

I'm Blogging from the Blogger app for this one (as I sit in our Beach House garden in Rawai, Phuket) & I must admit I'm not quite sure how to put in links, change fonts etc - so apologies if the layout etc isn't the best!! I'm not clever enough to know anything about HTML coding either! I'll edit it properly once we're home!

When we said we were going on holiday to the Far East, lots of people remarked about the treatment of animals out there. We too, also went on our trip with a slight air of dread about the things we may possibly see - especially with dogs.

However, having now spent a little time in both Bangkok & Phuket, do we really need to step down slightly from our very self elevated high pedestal?

Let's just stop & think about our nation for a moment before we start to pass judgement & comment on other nations. As we sit on our "Nation of Animal Lovers" high horse & put ourselves on some kind of ultimate animal welfare pedestal - we are in fact . . .

  • A nation who has to have an organisation called The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals! That's right, an organisation designed to try & stop cruelty to animals. I don't think a day goes by where you don't see some kind of RSPCA story popping up on Facebook or Twitter about their work.

  • We have a campaign running at the moment called Alfie's Law. The campaign states:- "This campaign will help to raise awareness of the current law in the UK regarding the senseless act of animal abuse & neglect that way too often results in death and how the sentences are not being used to the maximum. Too often minimum fines are given to people who inflict the most disguisting abuse and harm to our animals for which there should be NO EXCUSE" It's a campaign we have supported ourselves - however as a "Nation of Animal Lovers" - is it something that we should need to be campaigning for? Surely a Nation of Animal Lovers would not need to even consider the thought of people abusing animals? If you haven't seen it - Google Alfie's Law! (Sorry I can't post the link from the app!)

  • How about the recent huge increase in dog thefts? The number of organised dog fighting rings there are in the UK? The huge number of dog's that are euthanised each year because irresponsible citizens of the "Nation of Animal Lovers" haven't bothered microchipping or tagging their dogs, so they get lost & can never be reunited? I saw a recent stat that shows around 6,000 dogs each year are euthanised due to being unable to locate the dogs owners!!

  • What about dog breeding? I dread to think what the real number of Puppy Farms that are in existence in the UK, breeding puppies in dreadful conditions & causing real suffering amongst dogs. Look at the Pedigree Dogs Exposed programmes - does this really confirm that we are a Nation of Animal Lovers?

  • Move away from dogs - How about the Badger Cull? A Government looking to press ahead with a Badger Cull despite strong opposition & in fact no real evidence to suggest that it will even work!! Fox hunting, battery farms - again the list is endless.

The list & examples could go on & on!! Are we really a NATION of animal lovers? I would suggest the evidence demonstrates otherwise.

Now, I'm not naive enough to think that animal abuse doesn't go on in the Far East & just as there is evidence of such things in our country, there is plenty of evidence to show that it happens in the Far East too - again with a whole host of animals.

We did have to walk quite quickly out of one area of the weekend Chatachuk market in Bangkok, as there was a stall which had pet puppies for sale. It looked like a real puppy farm type set up. Lots of different breeds of puppies all for sale as pets. To be fair, they looked healthy enough & the stall owner was playing & interacting with the pups, yet they were cramped in dog crates in the baking hot market stall. It's certainly not the type of place for a puppy. Photos were also banned!

But as a nation who has high number of puppy farms ourselves, are we really in a position of high authority to criticise these acts, when in fact closer to home, we really are no different in some respects?

Thailand's Dogs

I will let you in on my experiences & thoughts about the dog's we've come across in Thailand. I always stress that all of these Blogs are derived from 'real life' & everything contained therein is just my opinion based on real life experiences. I never proclaim it's the right or wrong opinion - it's just my view.

One thing you notice, is that there are dog's & cats trotting about quite freely in both Bangkok & Phuket - more so probably in Phuket.

However, what initially looked to us like 'stray' dogs upon our arrival, turned out to be dog's that people actually owned. Most of the dogs we saw also wore collars.

It seems that the dogs are family pets who are allowed, quite literally, the freedom of the land. The dogs are allowed to roam around the local streets & area of their own free will.

Again, I'm not naive enough to think that perhaps many don't get injured or killed walking around the streets, however I prefer not to think too much about this matter! Just as I avoid viewing the overload of sickening images & stories of abused animals/dogs that pop up on Twitter all the time. Simply because it breaks my heart when I see them!

What strikes me about dogs in Thailand is that they are, what we would say in the UK, as 'Sociable Dogs'. It's quite remarkable. You pass a dog in the street, yet he pays absolutely no attention to you whatsoever. You may get a glancing look & a little wag of the tail but very much in the main you are ignored. Humans are of no relevance to the dogs really.

At the same time, the Thai people are also respectful of the dogs. You don't see Thai people jumping out of the way, screaming because there is a dog nearby or 'off the lead'. They simply pass the dog as if he were another human walking along the street. The two live in complete harmony.

The people also have no overriding desire to 'say hello to the dog' or rush over to stroke & fuss the dogs either!!

A group of maintenance men were working down on the riverside in Bangkok, they had a dog with them & had brought along his dinner too! We got off the river taxi & saw the humans eating their dinner, with the dog eating his bag of dinner too.

The dog's in Phuket wander up & down Rawai beach, lying on the pavement or soaking up the sun on a bench. Again the dogs are ignored by the people passing them. The dogs also totally ignoring the people.

We visited the beach one day & 3 dogs came running across the sea stream, swam across the water & ran onto the beach. Again the dogs paid no interest in the humans whatsoever, the dogs were just frolicking between themselves. But, at the same time, not one human jumped up off the lounger screaming about dogs running around nor did anyone have the urge to go & interact with the dogs. Even young children just ignored them!

It's almost like they are part of the furniture here.

We have rented a beautiful Beach House in Rawai, and on the first day we had a tour of the area to show us where all the main essentials are - bank, shops, beaches, good food places etc etc. the lady who showed us around Pla, has 3 dogs. She said she wanted to have more when she retires.

When she is at work, the dogs stroll around her little house/office on the street, they potter around Rawai for the day, chill out under a tree on the Rawai Beach strip. In the evening, you go by her office & the dogs are chilling out with her family on the patio.

Pla came into a restaurant we were in on the beach front, a few minutes later 2 of her dogs wandered into the restaurant. No one batted an eyelid! The dogs weren't seeking out attention, weren't interfering with anyone. They were just there. The waitresses gave the dogs a little pat of the head & passing smile every now & again, in return the dogs rolled over on his back for a tummy rub!

The dogs are really friendly & if you go & stroke them etc they are your best friend!! As soon as Pla left the place though, the dogs weren't far behind her.

What really struck me about the dog's when they left the restaurant was that they actually left because they wanted to be with Pla. No lead, no treats, no command - just a bond between them which meant the dogs would ignore the people in the restaurant or bar and trot off to be with 'their mum'.

Yet despite the little 'attention' they receive from the general public, the dogs are all friendly. None of them of aggressive, none go round biting people or barking at people. The dogs even live in harmony with the cats! We saw 2 dogs just casually walk past a cat on the side of the road the other day - you almost saw a little acknowledgement between the dogs & cat too!!

Lots of Thai people take their dogs to the beach with them. We've seen a few families taking their dogs into the water with them, to cool down the dogs in the baking heat. You also see dog's lying patiently under their owners car next to the beach.

Again, no leads or treats to encourage the dog to walk with the owners. They just do it!

We have a bar literally next door to our Beach House. The lady [Annie] who owns it is lovely, we call her Mad Annie cause she's a nutter!! She jokes, laughs, takes the P & is just always really bubbly. She's got 3 cats & 2 dogs who all come to the bar. The 3 cats live at the bar. All of her pets are her babies. She kisses them, cuddles them & wraps them up at bedtime!

She even told us a story about the time she managed to sneak her dog 'Jonny' on holiday with her, managing to get the dog onto a plane & into a hotel. Amazing what you can get away with in Thailand!!

You also see motorbikes with side cart/cages attached where the dogs ride along the roads with their owners!

It really is quite remarkable, & it's a long way from the rather ignorant & stereotypical image we had somehow generated in our minds about how we may find dogs in Thailand.

In fact, one could argue that perhaps we too could take a leaf out of the Thai's approach to dogs. We have a massive issue with poorly socialised dogs, yet here in Phuket humans & dogs just seem to live life together. The dogs don't bother the humans, the cats or even themselves and the humans don't bother the dogs. That's not to say however, that the Thai people do not care - because they do. The dogs are their family, just like they are for us.

The only difference is, the dogs don't seem to need leads, treats or 'training' for them to behave as good 'sociable' dogs. 

You don't see dogs fighting or dogs going around misbehaving, yet here they are completely loose & the dogs never have their owners at the end of a lead - perhaps that's where we are going wrong . . . .

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Retiring Police Dog Penny

We really hope you like reading about all of the Police Dog's who've recently retired. 

We've been really lucky to catch up with some top handlers who've all been willing to share their story for you all to read.

As we said in our Retired Police Dog Blog, there's so much for handler's to consider when their dog's come up for retirement, and it's not always the case that the dog's can retire to them & become the handler's family pet. 

As we said, is it really fair to expect a working dog to have to stay at home for hours on end & lose all of their working stimulation? So in some cases there is a really heart wrenching decision for the handler to make, and sometimes the head must rule the heart.

We managed to grab a chat with Police Dog Penny's handler to hear about their story . . . .

Thanks for taking the time to share your story.What’s the name of your dog & how did you end up having her as your working Police Dog?

My GP dog is called Penny and she was just over 3 years old. She was given to us by lady who had become ill and wasn't able to care for her anymore. She wanted Penny to be given a good life.

It must be difficult taking on a rehomed dog to work as a Police Dog. We're spoiled in some ways with what we do with our pups. How has she been operationally as a working Police Dog?
For my first Police dog I have learnt a lot from her and she has been great fun. A bit of a character in ways, but she has also made me pull my hair out at times!! When you are tracking away on what you think are great conditions, then the next thing a rabbit runs across the track and then that's it . . . . . you just cant get her back on the track!!

She certainly sounds like she's kept you on your toes - but I'm not sure you can blame your hair cut on Penny!! What have been Penny's best results or jobs?
I have to think that one of our best job's was recovering a large kitchen knife which had been used in an armed robbery. The knife was recovered some 4 days after the incident!

My very first result also sticks out, as this also involved the recovery of a knife from a male suspect who had discarded it when being chased by officers. He was currently on an ASBO as well, which helped him serve a custodial sentence.

Despite Penny's love of chasing rabbits, she sounds like she got you some good prisoners! What’s the most frightening experience you’ve had to deal with at a job with her? Has she ever saved you from potential trouble/danger?

Thankfully I have been very lucky and haven't been in the situation where serious disorder was taking place. Fortunately, it was never put to the test, however we did have an incident when there had been a serious assault and the offenders had made off from the scene. We had tracked from the scene and to the location where the suspects were being arrested by officers. When I returned to the crime scene a male was trying to cross the cordoned off area and wasn't complying with the instructions given to him by the officers. As I approached, without any prompt, Penny did her stuff and barked like mad, she wasn't happy with him at all and when he saw a 36KG black shepherd approaching, he made a quick get away from the crime scene! It was great to see and left officers chuckling to themselves too!

She certainly made herself clear when she needed to then. How old is Penny & why is she retiring?
She is just over 3yrs old now and she has been retired mainly due to her inconsistencies. She was easily distracted by livestock and mainly rabbits, so as you can imagine, in our area we are currently over run with rabbits!!! 

The other problem I face is that she is not a big barker (despite the job above) so when doing public order she wasn't that bothered about barking. She didn't have any fears though and just thought people in riot shields shouting and screaming was a big game. She would just sit there and pretty much laugh at them!!

Given her impending retirement will you be keeping Penny or will you be looking for a family retirement home for her? 
I made the decision very early on, when I received my new pup [Misty], that I would re home her. 

I made this choice with my head rather than my heart. I knew that it would be difficult to give her the attention she deserves, as I would be having to concentrate on my new pup along with my drugs dog who is only young as well. As we approached the last month I did have lots of second thoughts about rehoming her, as I really wanted to keep her as she had been my first operational PD! Even to the last shift we worked I still thought about keeping her, but I knew I had made the right choice.,. 

I would be going out to work with the 2 dogs, and she would be getting left at home - and for a young dog its just not fair. 

I was very fortunate that a work colleague asked if he could have her and it saved me having to look for someone to have her.
It must have been a really difficult decision to make, and I know that you had second thoughts towards the end!! How did you find the rehoming process? 

I have to say that I'm lucky in a way, as I have previously puppy walked 3 dogs and 2 other dogs so I was kind of used to it in a way.
I have agreed that when ever Penny's new owner goes away on holiday or weekends away, she will come back to me rather than going into kennels

As well as your two current Police Dogs, have you got any other dogs? 

No, I have never had my own dogs since leaving home when I was younger, I have been brought up around Police dogs as a youngster, and I always knew that I wanted to do the same job as my father. 

I had several occasions when I could have had GSD, which hadn't made it as a Police dog, but I didn't want to take on too many dogs because my overall aim was to join the Police Force and become a dog handler! 

I knew that at some point you would have 2 dogs and if I had my own dogs, my house would be over run.

What a fantastic story - following in the footsteps of your father. I bet you are all chuffed! So what’s next for you as a handler following Penny's retirement?

Well, when I have completed this course [initial licensing course with Misty] I will be back on shift for 3 weeks before going away for a week to complete a PST course (Police Search Team).

I'll then be back for about 2 weeks, before heading off to dp a 4 week scanning course with my drugs dog Gonzo, as we have been selected to do this. 

Hopefully that's it then for the rest of the year!! Either at the end of the year or at the start of 2014, I will be doing a FSU course (Firearms Support). 

So we're certainly a bit on the busy side!!

Thanks for letting us share your's & Penny's story. We really feel for you making the decision to rehome Penny, but we know that she has gone to a great home & has settled in really well!

I'm sure everyone wishes you, Misty & Gonzo all the best, & also wish Penny a really happy & enjoyable retirement!

Hopefully Misty will join the ranks as a fully fledged Police Dog soon too.

Good luck for the rest of your course!!

Retiring Police Dog Kash

Following the great response we had when we caught up with PC Veltman recently to talk about his dog Rex retiring, we've been on the lookout for some more retiring Police Dog stories to bring to you.

We've recently managed to catch up with another #topdog & his handler, a retired Police Dog who has continued his working legacy in a very different form . . . .

Thanks for letting us share your story. Can you tell us the name of your dog & how you ended up having him as your operational Police Dog? 

This is Kash who is a German Shepherd. Kash came to live with me in Nov 2004 aged 16 months, and started his training as a general purpose police dog in Jan 2005. He completed his course in April 2005 and then worked as a fully operational Police Dog until May 2012. 

Kash has obviously had a really long & successful career. How did you find working Kash as your operational Police Dog? 

Kash has always been a very hard working dog; he loved the variety of the job and always loved going to work. Since retiring, he does now enjoy a lie in and not having to go out and work nights!! He has adapted well to retirement - the school run has now replaced a blue light run! 

In the 7 years you both worked together, what would you say have been Kash’s best results/jobs? 

I would say Kash’s best job was locating, then chasing and detaining 2 career criminals. It was in the middle of the night and in the driving rain! They had stolen and crashed an elderly couple’s car - which was their pride and joy. Kash had to work exceptionally hard in terrible conditions but he never gave up. This was Kash’s defining quality above all else; his pure determination to get the job done. 

Kash routinely attended firearms incidents & had to disarm people with weapons. He also attended football matches and public order situations. He loved everything he did at work - but especially chasing the bad guys! 

Kash has taken part in many missing person searches, but one of his best was to locate a missing elderly lady who had been missing for some time in fields and was close to death. Kash probably saved her life that night. 

It’s great to hear of dogs locating missing & vulnerable people – ultimately saving their lives. It shows how adaptable & reliable Police Dogs are. It’s not always about barking & biting, but they are always there to protect you as his handler, your fellow colleagues & ultimately the general public. What would you say has been the most frightening experience you’ve had to deal with at a job with Kash? Would you say that Kash has ever saved you from real trouble & danger? 

The most frightening incident Kash attended was a violent male who we had to challenge on our own, after he had beaten up his wife, smashed his house up and had then made off. He attempted to assault me, and then when Kash came to my aid, the man tried to strangle Kash .Kash still managed to detain the man - despite the attempt to strangle him -until further patrols arrived. Kash sustained injuries to his neck but still reported for his next shift raring to go. 

Kash has defended me on many occasions, and has routinely saved me and other officers from trouble and danger. 

It’s a remarkable & unexplainable bond between Police Dog & handler, with Kash quite literally putting his life on the line for you & your fellow officers. It must be a really difficult decision for Kash to retire. How old is Kash & why is he retiring now? 

Kash was nearly 9 when he retired, having worked for 7 and a half years of his life. Kash retired as he had reached his scheduled retirement date and due to this, he needed to take things more easily. 

It must be difficult for Kash retiring. Has he developed any illnesses or injuries & will he need any ongoing treatment & care?

Kash is now a family pet and enjoys taking things slower - although he still enjoys barking at people in the car!! He gets lots of play and fuss. 

Since Kash retired he has been diagnosed with E P I, which is a problem with his pancreas. He is now having weekly injections and is fed a special diet. 

Obviously now Kash is retired, the cost of his medication & specialist diet will be picked up by you as his owners. Will you be keeping Kash or will you have to look for a new family retirement home for him? 

Kash was always going to retire into our family; we had always planned for this to happen. Having been with us for such a long time we could not let him go. Kash now spends his time with my wife and son, and he also now lives in the house - having previously spent all of his working life living outside in a kennel. 

So Kash has moved indoors to enjoy putting his paws up, will a new recruit be residing in the ‘working kennel’ now? 

I have a new general purpose dog called Nico, he is 2 and is in fact Kash’s great nephew! I was lucky enough to get him from the same breeder. 

Nico was only 6 months old when he joined me and he lived at home with us before starting his training. He has eventually taken over from Kash & is now a fully operational Police Dog. 

Despite being related the dogs are very different. Nico is more laid back but is a lot bigger than Kash. 

We also have a family pet Harry who’s a Springer Spaniel. The dogs all generally get on very well, a bit like brothers they have their moments, but all enjoy a run and lots of play and fuss. 

So Nico has picked up where Kash left off - what’s next for you as a handler? 

Finn a Springer Spaniel will also be joining the pack in the next few days!! He is a drugs dog and I will be completing my training with him soon. Hopefully Nico and Finn will be with me for the next 5 years until they retire along with me. 

Thanks so much for sharing your family & Kash’s story with us. We wish Kash the very best in his retirement & hope Nico & young Finn both see out the remainder of your career with you. 

There’s a whole host of stories about Kash out there, so we’re really grateful for catching up to let people know a bit more about you & Kash. 

As Nico & hopefully Finn all carry on the 4 legged crime fighting work, Kash’s legacy continues in a very different form. You can follow Kash in his retirement as he takes up a very different role helping Staffordshire Police . . . 

You can also #followthepaw with Police Dog Kash taking up the iPaw & Twoofing for Staffordshire Police - @PoliceDogKash 

I’m sure everyone will wish Kash a very happy retirement too!!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Bandit Bye Bye's

Will Young once sung "if I lose the highs, at least I'm spared the lows", but for us we'd have to disagree.

It's a real roller coaster of emotions we go through doing what we do, but I wouldn't change it for anything - the highs certainly far outweigh the lows!!! Nothing more highlights the emotional roller coaster than day's like today.

On Thursday we were sat in Marco Pierre White's restaurant in Birmingham celebrating my birthday & here we are today saying goodbye to 'The Bandit'.

We've known all along that Bandit would be going this weekend, so we've had more than enough time to mentally prepare ourselves for it - but as I've said time & time again - nothing you do can really prepare you for the feelings you go through on a day like today.

Those who have read our 'Happy S(t)ears' & 'Hello & Goodbye - all in a day' Blogs will know there always a recurring theme when we get to days like today. I'll also try not to make the Blogs all the same on day's like this too - hopefully they're not too boring!!!

It's really strange today, in that originally it should have been the day that we would have been handing Sear back in! We'd always planned to hand Sear back around this time, so to have already handed Sear back & are now moving Bandit onto a handler is pretty surreal. 

Already licensed PD Sear

Despite having 'The Bandit' for just over 12 weeks, today has been no different. I must admit, a little part of me did wonder if today would be any different given the relatively short time we've had with him - but I can assure you, there's been no difference whatsoever.

Bandit's become part of our family, so him going is no different to any of our other pups.

Whilst there's no getting away from day's like today & the emotions you go through, the highs of what we do far, far outweigh any of the lows. No more so than with Bandit.

He was always only going to stay with us for 12 weeks, & I said right at the start, that we'd be doing everything we could to get him up to speed & to make sure he was ready for his next move, by the time we went away to Thailand. 

Here's our previous 'Pilgrim' Bandit Blogs which tell his story:-
The New Project - PD 'Pilgrim' Bandit
A Week With A 'Pilgrim' Bandit
The 'Pilgrim' Bandit Update
There's no better feeling than seeing your pup learning & developing. It's what really drives us in what we do. I remember the first day we brought him home & began his 'trial' - so to see where is now is really pleasing. 

Watching him learn, pick up & perform exercises is just brilliant. There's no better high than teaching your dog something new & seeing him perform it on command.

Bandit property searching

There's a little part of me that would have liked to have kept him for longer though. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so to be handing Bandit to his handler with a couple of things that need brushing up is a bit of 'issue' with me. However, we're away for nearly 4 weeks & I didn't want Bandit sat in the kennels for that long. It wouldn't be fair on him. At the end of the day, everything we do is in the dog's best interest & I'll always make sure the dog's welfare is at the forefront of what we do. So we made the decision to try & find him a handler.

When Sear got through his licensing course, his handler said it was more of a re-handling course than an initial licensing course - and to me that's the standard I want all our pups to be at when they leave. Bandit's gone off to his new handler with some areas that need a bit more work to get him fully licensable. So I am a little frustrated that we ran out of time & mainly the bits that we needed to work on were missed out because of the snow!!!

Bandit in the snow

That said, I'm delighted with who Bandit has gone to & to be fair, Bandit is at a pretty good standard  - especially considering he's still only 8 months old. I sometimes forget their age & I'm the worst for trying to push the dogs on!! So at 8 months, having about 80-90% of the ACPO manual ticked off isn't too bad.

He's got a few things to polish up on for his licensing & he's now got to start to learn to be a Police Dog. Given his age though, he's got plenty of time to develop & mature and there's no rush to be getting him out on the streets either. It's all worked out pretty well really.

Through all of the emotions of Bandit going, I'm really really looking forward to seeing him as (hopefully!!) a fully licensed Police Dog. I know he'll be licensed at a really high standard & his handler will get him to a really high standard of training too. I can't wait to see him at that level!

So we're heading off on holiday, safe in the knowledge that Bandit's gone to a really great handler & he'll be really well looked after.

Hopefully once we're back off holiday, we'll have some really great things to share with you about what we're up to . . . . and of course who will be taking of the Twoofing!! I think a few of you may have worked out what our next little project may entail too . . . 

One thing we're also going to continue in Bandit's absence is our support for the Pilgrim Bandit's charity. 'The Bandit' will always be in our hearts - as are all of our pups - but he will also remain a part of what the charity does & will hopefully carry their name through a long & successful career as a fully fledged Police Dog.