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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

MARINA AND TAG WIN THE 2017 MIRROR YOUNG ANIMAL HERO AWARD HELD AT THE GROSVENOR HOUSE HOTEL PARK LANE LONDON

Those of you who follow my blog will know all about Marina and trainee Police dog Tag. Marina was born in Russia with congenital limb deficiencies which meant her legs and arms did not develop properly.

Her parents Jo and Gideon Pritchard first met her when physiotherapist Jo was working for a charity The Promise, which works in Russia and neighbouring countries training carers and healthcare workers to support the development of children with disabilities.

They adopted her, and brought her home to live with them in Devon when she was two. As she grew up, her disability meant that she could not always do the same things as her friends, which affected her confidence

But then Jo and Gideon applied to be Police dog puppy walkers and were allocated 4 month old trainee Police dog Tag who had been imported from Germany. From there a very close bond and friendship developed between Marina and Tag which has transformed Marina’s life.

Here they are on one of their first training sessions with Tag’s litter sisters Tara and Tammy.
Mum Jo says “ Marina spends hours playing with Tag and has had a special relationship from day one.

The close bond between them has helped Marina improve her confidence and energy levels, while her enthusiasm for life has soared.
Since meeting Tag Marina has become more active, enjoying running, tennis and swimming, after having custom sports prosthetic running blades made. Here she is with mum and brother Seth getting Tag ready for the Devon County show display earlier this year. 


Having been responsible for acquiring the puppies for Devon and Cornwall Police and developing them with their puppy walkers for many years I have witnessed numerous examples of the special relationship between children and the pups.

But this relationship between Marina and Tag has something magical about it. I highlighted it to our media department and this resulted in a lot of media coverage. This sequence of pictures of Marina being interviewed and being watched closely by Tag says it all for me.




He is clearly trying to work out what is going on, checks out the camera person then gets a reassuring pat from Marina before calmly settling down but still closely watches over his best friend.

I have really enjoyed watching them together on our training days and here are a few pictures of their time together.






As a result of the media coverage Marina and Tag were nominated for the Mirror Animal hero awards and on Thursday 7th Sept Marina, Tag and her parents travelled up to the awards at the Grosvenor house hotel in London.

I also attended with my wife Diane to help in looking after Tag during the event. The event was hosted by Amanda Holden.

We were all thrilled when Marina and Tag won The young animal hero category and were presented with their award by celebrities Tom Fletcher of the pop group Mcfly and Ashleigh Butler who previously won Britain’s got talent with her dog Pudsey and was with her new dog Sully.
I was very proud of Marina and Tag. Marina was extremely nervous until she had been presented with her award and said “ It was the best time ever.”

Here she is with the host Amanda Holden who did a fantastic job hosting the event..

I found the whole event extremely emotional and moving with some truly inspirational people being presented with their awards. Marina quite rightly was in great demand and with a lot of the celebrities also bringing their pet dogs along it was all very informal and entertaining.

Here are a few more photo’s of Marina and Tag’s evening









We all sat down at the tables at around 7pm for the meal and presentations and with the aid of some liver treats and a couple of short walks outside Tag was completely relaxed and very social with everyone he met despite being there until midnight. He is a remarkable dog..

The 2017 Animal Hero of the year was retired Police dog Finn and his handler Dave Wardell. Finn was very badly injured after being stabbed with a 12 inch knife by an offender he was attempting to detain. Dave was also stabbed and there is no doubt that Finn continuing to tackle the offender after being stabbed saved his handlers life.

The offender only received 8 months imprisonment and nothing for stabbing Finn who very nearly died. At the moment, attackers of Police dogs and horses are prosecuted for criminal damage. Dave is building momentum with Finn’s law to get the government to create a law which gives serving service dogs and horses the same protection as officers.

I had the honour of meeting this wonderful dog and his handler Dave. I could see that Dave was bursting with pride receiving their deserved award. I hope that Finn now has many years ahead of him doing what I bet he loves most relaxing with his family and his adored handler Dave. I wish them both all the best for the future.

After a late night we were all up early for a short filming session with Chanel 5 news in Coram’s park in London before setting off home.

This was an experience I will never forget and I am sure will be an occasion that a very special girl called Marina will probably remember for the rest of her life.

Just like everyone who has become aware of Marina’s story I have thought long and hard about the moment that Tag has to leave to continue his Police training.

I have had conversations with parents Jo and Gideon and they are aware that my management team and I are adamant that in these special circumstances the outcome must be one which is in the best interests of Marina and her family even if that results in Tag remaining with them.

Jo and Gideon are adamant that Marina wants to see him become a Police dog and has said “ Im going to be very sad but I know he is going to be a very cool Police dog and is going to catch loads of baddies.”

But for now I know that Marina and the family are keen to enjoy the remaining 4 months of his training which is now becoming really interesting before his Initial Police dog course in January 2018.  

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