Friday 17 April 2015

The C litter enjoy their day at Saundcroft Farm

On Sunday we took the C litter down to Saundercroft farm as part of their puppy development programme which is one of my favourite visits. We are very lucky that one of our Police dog handlers Andi Darbey lives next to Saundercroft farm which is owned by her mum and they kindly allow all of the puppies coming through our programme to visit and socialise with all of the different animals.

This is a vitally important part of their development because as Police dogs they will need to be able to work in amongst livestock without being distracted when they are searching or tracking for criminals or missing vulnerable persons.
OK, so this is the famous farm.
We all started our tour in the main yard before making our way to the sheep and lambs in the first field. Most of the pups were just very inquisitive but a couple were a bit nervous and slightly fearful of them.
Are they being fed?
You can see Charlie, Callie and Chaos in and if you look carefully Charlie on the left and Chaos far right are both confidently looking at the sheep but Callie in the centre is showing her hackles and her body language is communicating some uncertainty and defensive aggression.

Out of view is Cosmic who was very fearful and took flight away from the sheep to start with.

Within 5 minutes all of the dogs were comfortable and relaxed in their presence and soon after that they became bored and not interested in the sheep. In other words they were neutral to the sheep which is the objective we wanted to achieve.

I have included a number of photo’s of this part of the visit because it demonstrates how to achieve the objective to get the dogs and animals used to each other in a sensible and gradual manner. Andi and her partner played the major part in this by feeding the sheep and integrating the dogs while they did this.

Remarkably the dogs effectively were sharing and joining in eating with the sheep and more importantly were gaining confidence, not seeing them as a threat and eventually became bored with them and wanted to move on.
They are being fed, I thought so
Think I may get away with trying some
You get the food, I'll out stare this one
Good plan
Is the food all gone?
I'll just check
The pictures above show Andi working her magic and the pups enjoying their experience.
Foods gone, lets go and see Jack

The above shows the pups now bored and looking for new experiences or mischief to get into.

Everyone then took it in turns to meet rescue pony Jack.
Hi Jack, got any food?
I wonder if Jack's food tastes better?... I tried it earlier mate, what can I say I'm airing my tongue!

Then it was into the barn to meet the young cows.
Straw! THAT's not food!
It's a cow what more can I tell you!
Have you got any food?
Then it was time to meet the very large horses.

Wow you're tall, got any food?
OK, Please
Ha, new it... wheres mine?
In between all of this Annie took the opportunity to give Callie some agility and development training on a large pile of posts.
I'm King of the castle and you're the dirty...
Lastly it was my favourite meeting the chickens and the rooster.

more chickens
yep, I've seen the chickens...

Finally a group photo of the pups with Jack our rescue pony and the hand reared and very tame sheep Al who thinks he is a human.
Group photo, is Jack and Al joining us. Are they to be Police trained as well?
Another very enjoyable day for all concerned.

Bye for now Paul

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Good news Brodie is back home recuperating after having his second hip replaced

I am delighted to inform everyone that Police puppy Brodie from our B litter has now had his second hip successfully replaced and is well on the road to a full recovery.

For those of you who do not know the story of Brodie if you refer to my February blog you will find all of the information there.

A summary of the story is that Brodie was born with chronic hip dysplacia and after consulting with Orthopaedic specialist Peter Attenborough at St Davids veterinary practise in Exeter he advised us  that the only way that Brodie could lead a normal pain free life was if both his hips were replaced.
His left hip was successfully replaced in February this year the details of which are in our February blog.

Two weeks ago Brodie came back to Exeter to have his second hip replaced. He traveled by train to see Orthopaedic Specialist Peter Attenborough for their consultation and second operation.

His previous operation has healed nicely.

His new operation was a complete success.

He is expected to be fully recovered in 7 to 8 weeks time and he will be our guest of honour at the Devon County show for anyone wishing to meet him.
Peter Attenborough is adamant that with 2 new hips he will be as fit and well as any dog and in his opinion there is no reason why he could not now go on to become a working dog. He certainly has the right temperament.

There have been many experienced dog people who I have spoken with who have queried whether it was right to put him through all this trauma and whether the kindest thing would have been to put him quietly to sleep. Let me reassure those people that within a matter of days after each operation he was pain free and moving around freely. The rehabilitation process was pain free for Brodie he just needed to slowly rebuild the muscle he had lost.

Watching him in pain prior to the operations and seeing him after the operations I can assure you it was the best decision I ever made. I would like to pay a special tribute to Peter Attenborough and all of his staff for their help and support.

Finally I would like to thank everyone for all the kind comments and messages of support in response to my tribute blog about losing my old Police dog Spud. It was a great help to me and my family.

In my tribute you will have seen Spud photographed at the start of his training with my Police dog at that time Brad. Unfortunately that was a difficult time because I retired Brad at 4 years of age because he was just too gentle a soul to be a Police dog often licking the Bad guy.

I re-homed him with my friend and gamekeeper Kim in Derbyshire 10 years ago and have kept in regular contact ever since. After telling Kim the sad news about Spud Kim made my day this week when he sent me this photo of Brad who is still going strong accompanying him on his gamekeeper rounds at the ripe old age of 14 years.

My next blog will be about the C litter visiting the farm on Sunday
See you then Paul

Tuesday 7 April 2015

A tribute to Devon and Cornwall's legend Police dog Spud who sadly passed


As I write this tribute to my dearly beloved SPUD I am understandably heartbroken at losing my best friend and the most remarkable dog I ever worked with but I am so very proud and privileged to have been his partner and handler for all these years.

I purchased Spud from John Gray a golf professional and working trials enthusiast in Longniddry Scotland who bred him on  March 31st 2004. In July 2004 I collected him and brought him back to my home aged 4 months where our story begins.

I purchased him because I had doubts as to whether my Police dog at that time Brad had the necessary toughness to be a successful Police dog having already worked him for 2 years. They are pictured here together at my old friend and mentor Graham Mabbutt’s house when he was 12 months of age.

Starting out 1 Year

I quickly realised that Spud was a natural Police dog with huge potential but I had no idea at that time just how special he would turn out to be. I trained Spud and he became a fully licensed Police dog aged 14 months. He is pictured here having successfully completed his Initial Police dog course after only 8 weeks instead of the normal 13 weeks. Having had him from such a young age meant he was already partly trained by the start of the course.
Spud is licensed

I found Brad a wonderful home with a gamekeeper called Kim in Derbyshire and when I last spoke to him he was still accompanying him everywhere at the ripe old age of 13.

Spud made an immediate impact as my operational Police dog with numerous early arrests and quickly established himself as a dog not to be messed with but who was calm and quiet as long as the Queens peace was maintained.
The above shows Spud demonstrating the kind of commitment and determination that he was to become famous for.
The above shows what a balanced temperament he had because he had just finished doing a criminal work demonstration to the students of South Devon college and is then pictured here being cuddled and fussed by one of the students.

I had always been keen in taking part in Police dog competitions and my first dog Police dog Harry had been the first ever Devon and Cornwall Police dog to be crowned a champion at the prestigious UK national Police dog trials. He was the tracking champion in 1994 and the overall reserve champion in 1996.

Spud was now a proven operational Police dog and I decided it was now time to see how far we could progress together in Police dog competitions.  Not for one minute did I believe he would go on to become one of the most successful Police competition dogs of all time in the UK although I knew we would do well because of all the time we spent training and working together.

He lived to work as a Police dog.
Lets get to work
Here is pictured here waiting at the back of my Police dog van in the deep snow appearing to say “What is the problem let’s get to work,”

Because he was so successful in tracking down criminals we would regularly find ourselves face to face with dangerous offenders  in remote locations  but such was Spud’s presence and demeanour that no one ever considered attacking me or trying to escape.  I think when you see him pictured here outside his beloved summer house you can see what I mean.
Don't even think about it
From 2007 to 2011 Spud was crowned the Regional Police dog champion ( South West and Wales ) on 5 consecutive occasions.  This qualified him to take part in the National Police dog trials and between 2007 and 2010 he was crowned the reserve champion 3 times,  the tracking champion twice, criminal work champion 3 times, obedience champion twice and searching champion twice.

He had come so close to being crowned the overall National Police dog champion missing out by 7 marks in 2010 and approaching 7 years of age I thought our opportunity had gone because to win the National Police dog trials a dog has to be in his/her prime.

Here are some pictures of our time competing in the Police dog trials.

The hurdle
The long jump
The dreaded 6 foot scale
Knocking the criminal off his feet
The dogs march on
Duke of Kent presents the tracking trophy
Duke of Kent presents the reserve champion trophy
Relaxing together

In 2011 I assessed his fitness to compete one last time in the National Police dog trials and concluded that I might have to give the 6 foot high scale jump a miss because of his ageing joints but other than that he was as keen as ever to work. Then at the National Police dog trials in Suffolk at the ripe old age of 7 he won the Overall champions trophy making me the proudest I had ever been in all of my Police dog service.
Waiting proudly to receive the winners coat
Presentation of the trophy
My Spud my proudest moment

Here he is waiting to be presented with the winners trophy and wearing the coveted National Police dog winners coat.

Unfortunately austerity then became the dreaded word for everyone in public service and efficiency cuts then meant that my days as a Police dog section supervisor were over due to enforced retirement from the Police service for me and for Spud.

I had no complaints as the force selected me to continue in my current role as the Canine Development officer as a civilian which I thoroughly enjoy. ( My colleagues with the same service as me were not so lucky ) I wasn’t so sure that Spud would be so keen about retirement  but he immediately settled into his new life.
Spud and I on our daily walk

He is pictured here on our daily walks together around the Killerton estate which we have done together since the day I got him.
Our chill out tree with Mollie

Note how calm he is around the cattle and the big tree is our favourite resting and play spot with Mollie who he adored.

I then started our breeding programme and once again Spud showed what a fantastic balanced and stable character he had in fully accepting lots of pups running around our house and garden. He is pictured here with Ruby and her A litter in the summer of 2013 and relaxing on the big swing seat.
Always at my side
Hanging out with the little dudes
Ruby, Spud and the gang
Axel joins the big guy
Take it easy cheesy..
Chilled to the Max

I have been selecting and acquiring all the pups and dogs for Devon and Cornwall Police for many years and whenever I bring them home I usually see how confident they are in a new place before allocating them to their new puppy walkers. This means that most of the serving Police dogs in Devon and Cornwall would have met Spud at some stage.

He was always completely accurate about the optimum time for mating with our brood bitches when they came to stay with us. I remember the vets telling us that our brood bitch Mollie was not yet ready from blood tests carried out and Spud was telling me that she was ready. You’ve guessed it we went by the blood tests and she missed. Fair play to the vets they reimbursed all of our testing costs.

Because Mollie produced a pup with severely bad hips in the B litter I had to retire her from the breed programme and re-home her with our friends Angie and Graham Collins. Spud missed her terribly.  He did however accept our new potential brood bitch Qwendi from Germany and they are both pictured here together waiting and enjoying their xmas lunch together.
Waiting for Xmas lunch
Spuds 11th Xmas lunch

Spud went downhill quite suddenly about 10 days ago when his back legs started to give out and he became tired and listless going off his food. We both knew his time was drawing to a close as he struggled to come with me for his walk. Qwendi knew too as nature always does. She is pictured here with her head on Spuds paw offering support and sympathy clearly aware that Spud is unwell.
Qwendi concerned for Spud

Watching all the dogs that I have over the years and watching Qwendi’s behaviour towards Spud once again it just confirms to me that there is so much about dogs and the conversations that they have with each other that we do not know about.

On the morning of last Thursday I knew the time had come for Spud because he became restless and distressed for the first time. In the previous week I had often got up in the night to sit with him if I could hear him struggling to get comfortable but he would always then rest peacefully as either I or my wife Diane sat with him. This time it was different and he and I both knew it was time for him to leave us and be at peace.

He died quietly in my arms and he now has pride of place in our garden under his new apple tree and a Tower of London poppy for company.
Farewell my friend
Qwendi is pictured here on his new spot.

I hope you can forgive my indulgence in writing this tribute and being allowed to share some memories of our time together with you because it has given me and my family comfort at this difficult time. Thank you all for your kind messages of support they are very much appreciated.
Goodbye my loyal and trusted friend Spud you will live on in my heart and in my memories forever.

SPUD 2004 TO 2015