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Finn's Story

The life of a police dog called Finn

Sorry it’s been so long. Part 25.

It’s been a while, sorry. There is plenty to report, but I’m afraid my feelings of disappointment after the adjournment of the court case having built myself up and prepared myself for it kind of took over for a while. Then I’d figured that everyone had moved on with their lives. So again, sorry.

Where did we leave off? Just after Christmas I think. Well, New year was fairly typical in our house. One of us was home with the children and one of us was at work until silly o’clock in the morning. It was me who was home and I allowed the girls to stay up to see the new year in, no easy feat for a 4, 7 and 10 year old…..let alone a 40 year old. My wife, Gemma, was at work until about 4am meaning we spent most of the morning of New Year’s Day creeping around the house whilst she tried to sleep. Again no easy feat for my girls. They aren’t known for their ability to be quiet.

Very quickly the day of the court case came around. I must admit that I was probably not the best person to be around during that week after new year. I think I was probably pretty quiet and grumpy at home. The guys at work could sense something was up and spent most of the week trying to make me laugh…..usually at my expense, but that’s what work colleagues are for, right? Police officers have a strange sense of humour too.
I turned up to court, I had to go back through my evidence and see the exhibits so that I was ready for the hearing. That of course put me right back in that garden at 2am on 5th October 2016! I have always felt for victims of crime at court. It is not a pleasant thing to relive what, for most, must be one of the worst days of their life. Yet here I was going through that too.
Thursday 5th January 2017 may go down as one of the most long and drawn out, frustrating, challenging and all round crappiest day of….2017, at least.
All the games possible were played and unfortunately we lost the last one of the day. All that means in real terms is that the case has been adjourned, but as courts are so busy these days the adjournment was for two months! I can’t tell you how disappointed I, everyone around us and those that support us were. There are more consequences to this adjournment than I am allowed to tell you. If I were allowed, I’m pretty sure you’d be furious.
The next hearing is in early March. No doubt the same rubbish will run through my head, the same sleepless nights, the same short fuse at home, the same stress levels etc. Oh well, as long as justice is served eh…..?

I’m sure we’ll get our day in court

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As if the day of the case hadn’t been bad enough, sadly the day after the I heard that face, or at least the dog face, of the campaign, RPD (retired Police Dog) Bear had died. He had been allowed to be the face of the campaign as he was retired, as was his old handler Mark, and the police could no longer control either of them. Finn and I were not allowed to do what Bear and Mark did as police officers are not allowed to be actively involved in politics, not that the campaign is.
Mark and Bear, who had been teamed up together before retirement, went on lots of TV shows and news bulletins and really helped get this campaign off the ground and were both amazing. Bear will always be remembered for making one of the Good Morning Britain presenters jump by barking at them, for stealing some food off of the table on live TV and for jumping on the sofa on Sky News and making himself at home. It was their appearances one morning that shot the petition, that had been doing well anyway, way over the 100,000 target we had to get Finn’s Law debated in Parliament.

RIP Bear.

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I was now knee deep in trainee dogs and older dogs that needed extra training at work. I love instructing…..especially when it’s all going well. One of the main differences between being a handler – which of course I am, and love to do – and being an instructor is that, when you are a handler you go home thinking/worrying about one dog. When you are an instructor you go home thinking/worrying about 6 or more dogs.
Of course there is more than just one being to think about when training new dog teams. Dog training would be simple if it was just about the dogs!

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Tracking training.

So, how is the campaign?

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It seems to be going ok, I think. The Policing Minister promised to ask several departments to see what they could do to help. The first was the Sentencing Council. They reported back a couple of weeks ago. On the face of there work it appears good news. The best news is that, for the first time Police animals and service animals are actually mentioned in law! A crazy situation really as we’ve been using animals and their superior abilities for centuries, but it’s taken until 2017 for them to be mentioned in a piece of law. Beggars belief really, but it is a step in the right direction, but I hope that is all it is, a step and not the whole race….finished. Time will tell.
I said that on the face of it that it looks good. However, I’m told by lawyers that as a result the Sentencing Council have actually managed to reduce the possible sentences available for an attack on a police animal or service dog under the new part of the Animal Welfare act. A step backwards in any bodies books. Was this an oversight?
Just for clarity, the suspect in our case was not charged with this offence as Finn’s injuries were way beyond what this piece of legislation covers. This means that the charge of criminal damage is still all that is available in such serious cases – of which Finn’s is not the exception over the years. We still feel that criminal damage does not convey the amazing work these amazing animals do, the difference they make to people’s lives, the fact that they are intelligent beings that have feelings and that they should have better and bespoke protections in law than say a flower pot does.
IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare have taken up the cause now, thank god. This great organisation have hundreds of thousands of followers and have great relationships with MPs and the government. What I like is that they also fight clean campaigns.
http://g.ifaw.org/2jrk2BD

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I had been hoping that the court case would be heard, and no matter what the result was that Finn and the campaign would be back in the headlines to just help give the politicians that last nudge they sometimes need to get things along. But, as we know that didn’t happen. That left me wondering – what possibly could little old me do, without upsetting my bosses, to keep this alive?
Literally the very next day IFAW made contact. Coincidence? An angle from above? Who knows, but I can assure you that I am very grateful. They say things happen for a reason, and someone pointed out to me recently that with Brexit taking up most of the oxygen in the world at the moment, maybe the court case not being heard just yet will allow some of that oxygen to return to politics in time for the next hearing. I hope so. Maybe then, just maybe the press will get back behind Finn’s story, and then maybe the politicians will get that nudge. Fingers crossed. Hopefully someone is looking out for this cause. It is overdue by just a couple of centuries.
Anyway, as a direct result of IFAWs involvement nearly 15,000 people contacted their MPs!!! Unbelievable and much more than I could have hoped for. I know 125,000 people signed the petition, but to then get 15,000 to contact their MPs was in my mind amazing. There are 650 MPs, even if that 15,000 were shared out evenly between those MPs that still means that each MP received 23 emails about this, keeping us in their minds….I hope.

Finn and I had been invited up to visit West Yorkshire police. West Yorks have been very supportive of Finn and our campaign right from the start. They had a refreshing approach to this. Something I had struggled to see locally. The day started early and involved a 3 hour drive through snow. But we were rewarded with a fantastic day meeting a great bunch of people. The day had been organised by Chief Inspector Aidy Waugh, himself once a dog handler.
We visited the dog section, the police helicopter and its staff, the canteen for fish and chips (lovely it was too, haha), the public order training centre, the shooting range and we finished our day with a visit to the Chief Constable, Dee Collins. Dee is a wonderful leader who says it like it is but is also very supportive.

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Finn’s new job.

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Finn making himself at home in the Chief Constables office.

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Finn also made himself very at home in Chief Superintendent Pat Casserly’s office. Top boss. Very down to earth, I wouldn’t mess with him though. I like bosses like that.

It can be rare to find a senior officer that was a dog handler like Aidy Waugh. Dog handlers quite often stay dog handlers due to the fact that the job is so challenging and rewarding. This is something that doesn’t help our collective cause. I could take you round any senior officers floor of any headquarters and we would find ex traffic officers, ex firearms, plenty of ex neighbourhood, ex detectives and lots of ex response officers. But you’d struggle to find an ex dog handler. For me that leads to a lack of understanding of what we do, why we ask for what we ask for, and what is involved day to day. We always get funny remarks when we go to HQ about being covered in hair and mud. I can go weeks without seeing an office. The training venues we use are usually empty office blocks were electricity and water have been switched off – this often means that it’s warmer outside than it is inside. We often stand outside in all weathers. A winter course, like the one I am running currently, really builds character. It was minus 7 a couple of weeks ago, and we were struggling to feel our hands after just a few minutes. We still had a schedule of training to follow and we did it.
My job is 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Not that I’m complaining, because I’m not. I love it!

Unless you do what we do, you don’t know! Until you’ve faced down, with just you and your dog, an offender or group of offenders with weapons who have gone to great efforts to escape, who are telling you that they want to kill you, or you are miles away from roads, civilisation or back up and you find that misper trying to kill themselves, or a senior officer sends you and your dog off into the never never at night to look for that depressed someone seen by relatives to walk off with a rope, or you turn up to that completely out of control public order with just you and your little dog and officers look to you two to sort it out because they are struggling – which we usually duly do.
Phew, glad I got that off of my chest! Nothing out there, currently maybe, can do what a highly motivated, highly trained dog team can do!
I’ll stop there.

Once we were done at West Yorks Police, we headed off to meet a retired dog handler and someone who has been behind the campaign since the very start, Mick Bland. You couldn’t wish to meet a kinder person who clearly remembers very fondly his time on West Yorkshire’s dog section. Finn came in to say hello too. I think it’s fair to say that Mick is a fan of Finn and that Finn left his mark on Mick. We had a lovely evening. Learning the lingo;

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We returned home at about 11pm and I had to be up at about 4am to head to a Royal Canin sponsored police dog Seminar weekend in Shropshire – another 3 hour drive. It was great to meet up with other handlers and instructors and exchange ideas and learn new techniques. There were a few old acquaintances there too. So inevitably a few beers followed. It was nice to relax. But it was soon time to head home. I don’t mind admitting that having not had a day off over the weekend that I struggled following week.
The weeks over Christmas with Finn returning to work, New Year, the lead up to the court case and visiting West Yorks and the seminar were starting to take their toll. I was exhausted. But life goes on at work and home, no time to be ill. But tiredness can lead to mistakes. I’ll let the wife tell you about that one day. I really feel for her though. She had spent several weeks preparing our caravan for some Spring trips. I managed to undo all of that in about half an hour.

Hero-Diesel continues to develop nicely in school as does her brother Hector. I’m not sure what happened to their sisters Hope and Harper. But from what I saw I’m sure they are doing well.

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My good friend, Sean Dilley, who happens to be blind, suggested we start to turn the blogs into an audio blog for those who struggle with reading for what ever reason. Sean also suggest that I be the one to read them. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard your own voice, but for most, including me, it isn’t usually a pleasant experience. I begged Sean to do it as he talks for a living. He said it’d be better coming from me as it is my story. I tend to agree, but that doesn’t make it easier. He explained to me how to tell a story and how to keep the narration almost monotone. This may be a struggle when we get to some of the emotional bits. But if people continue to like it, we shall continue….once we find another day in the week to do it. Have a listen and tell me what you think;

That kind of neatly brings me to the question of a Book – should we write one? What would you like to see in it if we do? Would you buy it?
Just finally, a few things; we finally signed the forms for Guide Dog puppy Finn. This starts the process. I am waiting to hear back from them as to what happens next, whether there is a litter due soon etc.

My eldest and I spent the day here yesterday at the Essex County Championships. She is now the 4th fastest girl in her age group in the whole of Essex! Not bad for her first attempt.

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Oh and I managed to get on the news again. This is where my daughter trains 7 times a week. It isn’t exactly local to us, but parking charges we ok. But the people that run the car park planned to put the yearly parking charges up from around £400 to nearly £2,000!!! I hope you’ll agree that is greedy and doesn’t exactly show a commitment to the much spoken about Olympic Legacy. Who can afford those prices just for parking? Where is the social inclusion in that decision?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-38867133?ocid=wsnews.chat-apps.in-app-msg.whatsapp.trial.link1_.auin

Okay, enough for now. Thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts……

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A very special Christmas indeed. Part 24

Well anyway, once I’d stopped blubbing to myself I rang my wife, Gemma, who was hugely relieved. I can imagine her heart must have been in her mouth when my name came up on her phone at 10.45pm. We never really speak to each other that late if one of us is at work. You could hear her excitement over the phone. Of course, there were a few thousand anxious people waiting to hear how our night went. I’d also had a message from my Chief Constable wishing us well and asking to be notified of any good jobs. So I spent a few minutes catching my breath whilst posting on social media. The responses were instant. I was also getting messages on my personal work radio. The boy was back and everyone knew it, and they were happy for us.
We needed time to write up our evidence, but in no time we were sent to our next job, and then the next. It finally went quiet at about 3am, and we were able to find a nice quiet office in which to eat and type up a statement. Finn likes to come in with me if he can.
I don’t want you to think that it went to Finn’s head but……

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he’s ready for Hollywood! Although if Hollywood wrote that story, you’d say it was a bit far fetched;
Tackled the baddie, saved the day, nearly died, amazing recovery, beat all expectations, no adverse effects, passed his tests with top marks, back out on the street in amazing time, and on his very first job tracks to find someone hiding in a stable on a starry night just before Christmas? ‘No way! I’m not having it’, you’d say. Well that’s how it happened.

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There was time for a nice walk, before having to be back at base for the end of our shift, at one of our favourite spots.

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We got home at about 7am and that was the last we saw of the world until early afternoon. We woke up to several thousand lovely messages, likes and retweets of our previous evenings work. We read and liked every single one. Thank you. The story made its way onto mainstream media too.
Before long we were off for our second night shift. That was a much more quieter affair, in fact it was boring. We had a few jobs in the early hours, and we drove round as much of our area as possible, patrolling and speaking to people. But we don’t like it when it’s quiet. We much prefer to be busy all night. If you get home without having had time for dinner you know it’s been a good night.
I think the previous 11 weeks and being out of practice working nights had finally caught up with me as once we’d woken from our sleep after our second night turn I had a terrible cold. Someone said that I’d probably not allowed myself to be unwell whilst looking after Finn. But now that he was well and back at work my body gave in. I spent much of the rest of that day in bed before getting up for a few hours and then going back to bed. We had a special day the next day. We had to be on good form.

It was now Friday the 23rd December and we had kindly been invited to the Police Twitter awards at Northampton Police HQ. We weren’t picking up an award. But we were there for a guest appearance.
It was brilliant to see the finalists and hear of the great work they all do staying in touch with their communities through social media. Social media has been viewed with suspicion by the police for far too long now. It was great to see how these people are helping to bring us out of the dark ages. All the accounts are informative, up to the minute and quite often lighthearted in the way they deliver important messages. This makes them engaging and breaks down barriers far more effectively than most other available means – especially in a time of budget cuts.

It was our turn to be announced and greeted on stage. I had no real idea how Finn would react to a loud, cheering, clapping crowd, if that’s how they would react of course. Any ideas where Finn might have seen that sort of behaviour before?
So, to be on the safe side, I took some back up in the form of his pink ball, a spare ball and a pocket full of treats.

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We walked in and those gathered in the room all craned their necks to get a view of this famous dog. We went up onto the stage where Mike Pannett was introducing us. After a lovely speech about Finn and the importance of police animals in modern policing from Mike the applause and pictures started. It’s far to say he was well received. The pink ball came in useful, but the rest of the ammunition wasn’t needed.

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After the awards ceremony had finished, those that had been promised Finn selfies found their way outside. We met some lovely, influential, supportive and famous policing faces. I know Sergeant Harry Tangye @DC_ARVsgt wouldn’t forgive me if his selfie wasn’t included in this blog. So without permission, here it is;

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I will remove it if you wish Sergeant.
We also met the wonderful Police blogger John Sutherland @policecommander , and his wonderful family. Maybe I could learn something about blogging from the master….

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We met lots of wonderful and supportive people, all had selfies. But I’d never be forgiven if I didn’t include a dog handlers picture. These people understand the bond between Finn and me as they have the same bond with their dogs.

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We then drove home for Christmas, and thanks to Finn, what a Christmas it was, even a rotten cold couldn’t dampen the occasion.

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Finn sat at the head of the table with me, and like all our dogs have always had, they all also had a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. The rest of the day was spent in front of the fire relaxing, and opening his many presents.

With Christmas out of the way I thought I was just left with the awful countdown to the court trial on 5th January. Something I’m not looking forward too at all. Reliving moments of my life, our life we’d rather forget. I’ve been trying to keep busy with the blog, thinking of fundraising ideas for our ‘name a Guide Dog Finn’ campaign and planning for 2017; I’m hoping 2017 will be an exciting year for me and my family, including Finn. Although he is set to retire next year I hope we have a lot to look forward to. He may end up with his own law, I think he’s been put forward for an award, he has police dog working trials to practice for, there’s retirement and what they may bring for him without the constraints that come with being police property – not that he was ever property! – and who knows what else, with growing interest in me writing a book about Finn and his journey, it could be an interesting year indeed.
Well all of those nasty thoughts about the court trial were pushed to one side on the evening of the 30th December. People have been donating to our Guide Dog campaign so generously both online and during collections. Online alone we’ve had over 160 donations. On our organised collections we have had hundreds of donations. Everyone involved have been so buoyed by people’s generosity, especially me, as I’ve mentioned previously. On the 30th I received a pretty vague reply to a fundraising post on Twitter. It simply said, ‘there you go Dave name it’.
That led me to check the just giving site to see if we’d had a donation so I could quickly thank the person donating. We needed £1,500 to reach our £5,000 target. Thinking it may have been another awesome £5, £10 or £20 donation, imagine my surprise when I saw that the donation was for the full £1,500 needed to reach our target. Well, I was blown away. I immediately contacted the company who’d made the donation, Smarter-metering.co.uk. I had to check that it was correct and not a miss type. The reply came back that it was correct. Apparently they’d followed our journey from the start, and being a dog owner themselves they understood the good work police dogs do. They’d made the donation helping to end the year in such an amazing way for me, my family and all involved in our journey and fundraising.

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So it is now New Years Eve, and sat here reflecting on 2016 it’s fair to say it could have been a whole lot worse. Yes maybe it could have been better, but we have learnt a lot; I have a new, better understanding of how the public view the work Finn and I do, and it’s a refreshing one.
Here’s hoping 2017 is a great one for us all, especially Finn. I hope he gets to have a long and happy retirement, and for those wondering, his retirement will be right here with his family. I’m hoping we’ll be able to bring you a few stories of some of his retirement adventures, someone suggested some hill walking in Cumbria, we have an invite to Wales, we even have an invite or two to America.
Until 2017, have a wonderful, safe and prosperous New Year…..

First day back. Part 23

The week started at Headquarters early Monday morning. A press day had been planned for some weeks now to show how well Finn was. The plan was that my Chief Constable would be able to show the public how healthy and fit Finn was and how he’d now be able to start training again. A number of local MP’s were to attend along with the Police and Crime Commissioner and hopefully the Policing Minister. The dates came back and forth as the above important people had their diaries changed until the date of the 19th December was settled on. The plan was to put out a nice pre Christmas good news story of hope over adversity. But of course, by the time the 19th arrived Finn had smashed all expectations! He wasn’t about to just start his training at all, he was just about to go back out on the street for his first set of shifts since that night. With all the attention Finn had been getting, he was possibly the most important and recognisable being in the room. But don’t tell those gathered that I said that.
Would any press turn up? We’d apparently been turning down requests for access to Finn for weeks – not my doing, of course policing goes on.

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Well, by the end of the day we’d done several radio and TV news interviews and footage was being shown and heard on all the news channels, radios stations, online news, social media and newspapers in the UK and abroad. We were also able to show some of his training and announce that he had passed his tests and was due back to work the following evening. ITV Anglia followed up their brilliant initial piece on Finn with another lovely story.

Finn was back in the headlines, but not just Finn. Police dogs up and down the country were popping up in great policing news stories, just as they used to when I was a child. Just yesterday morning I saw another, where, when reading between the lines as a dog handler I’d have expected a dog to be there. Now it’s being reported as such. Not before time. We are also seeing retirements and deaths of police dogs reported. One was a dog from my old team, Kane, who died a few weeks ago. Kane and his handler had an amazing reputation. Kane retired at about 9 and a half, giving over 8 years to policing and keeping people safe. It said he was responsible for 170 arrests.

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But I believe it was many more than that. But like I always say, these aren’t people waiting at the scene to be arrested. These are people who have gone to huge efforts sometimes to make good their escape.
Police dogs really are worth their weight in gold, police horses too. The work we do is vital, it makes the public feel safe, brings offenders to justice and helps to locate the vulnerable much more efficiently than other means. Time for more dogs? That would be nice. Anyway, until I run for Prime Minster….

Tuesday was going to be a very long day. I attended a instructors meeting at lunchtime where we discussed who was going to play who in Finn’s movie, and whether Finn would catch anyone on his first shift back out on the street. We also discussed more serious matters, honestly. I was also informed that Finn had done so well in his tests, and the training we’d done before that night that we were being put forward to represent our dog section in the regional police dog trials in 2017. If it happens, it will be a nice swan song before Finn’s retirement. Fingers crossed.

By the time I got home from the meeting it was already early evening and my wife had cooked a lovely family meal. She made sure we all sat down as a family, as we do on those rare occasions that we are all together at meal time. I hadn’t realised the significance of this meal until later on when I learnt that she was struggling with the thought of Finn and I going back out on the street.
After dinner there was time for a quick nap before work. If all went well, Finn and I would return home at about 7am. So a short nap could make the world of difference as I’d been up since about 8am. Being awake for 24 hours or longer is something you get used to when working shifts, particularly in the emergency services.
By the time I woke up from my nap there was time to make myself a coffee and get the dogs in the van, including Finn of course. All my children came to give Finn a pat and me a cuddle and my wife did the same. I think she probably held on a bit longer than normal. But then it was time to go.
We got to the base and said hello to a few surprised colleagues, sorted out a van for the night, had another coffee and a bit of a catch up as we hadn’t been around for 11 weeks.
It was then time to head to our patrol areas. I’m not sure how I was feeling really. A little nervous maybe, apprehensive probably covers it. But we had a job to do…….and possibly a point to prove.
The evening started out slowly. We went back to the town where it all happened that night, Stevenage. But nothing much was happening. We floated passed a few local officers on vehicle checks to make sure they were OK and so that they knew we were nearby if needed. But most of the jobs being given out seemed to be just mopping up from earlier in the day. We had a quick public order type job to attend in Welwyn Garden City on blue lights and sirens. Which was nice for Hero-Diesel (HD) to experience for the first time. She was fine and barely woke from her nap. That was also Finn’s first blue light run since that night. How was he going to cope? Usually, he’d be really excited in and around town whilst being thrown around and listening to me talk on our police radio, and as soon as we would join the motorway he’s settle down until we reached a town again. This was just his way. Well, he hadn’t changed. That’s exactly how he reacted to this blue light run too. Nothing seems to have changed. It was a huge relief to see.

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Finn normally just sits here and watches me intently. He gets excited when I’m talking on a particular radio of the 3 we have as that one usually means we get to zoom around and go to work. He knows when my phone rings – I have the stereotypical dog handler ring tone of dogs barking – and he gets excited as that could be a secret squirrel type job we are being informed of.
Sometimes we are close to a job and won’t use our lights and sirens if its safe to do so, as we’d like the offenders to still be there on our arrival. But Finn is such a master of reading body language, as are all dogs, that he still knows we are going to a job. He so intuitive.
Anyway, by the time we got to that job there was nobody there. I made sure to get HD out at different locations, especially as it was dark to continue to build her confidence of unfamiliar surroundings. We then headed off to do a bit of training with both Finn and HD. Both did very well.
Then that radio that Finn likes crackled into life. A vehicle had made off from police, or appeared to have. A short while later it was spotted having collided with a parked vehicle and no one was with it. We were called to attend. On the way there the anticipation was really building. Listening to the job on the radio it sounded like there was some real potential. I was asked for my arrival time by the supervisor on the ground, a friend and someone I’ve known for years and worked with several times. Once I had given it I heard the supervisor give her officers a strict set of instructions to keep the scene sterile for the dog unit, music to a dog handlers ears.
For a dog unit it really is about what those first attending officers do before our arrival. We are very rarely the first units to get to any job. We cover huge areas nowadays. But that doesn’t mean the dogs aren’t effective. In fact they’ve probably never been as useful as they are now, with police numbers low, dogs can do the work of many officers in lots of incidents. But we need certain simple instructions to be followed, where appropriate, to allow us the best chance of success, the best chance of starting the hunt. Well, we got that at this job.
It had been 11 weeks and I was a little out of practice, and the adrenaline was seriously pumping now. It was a fairly quiet time of the night, it was a reasonably quiet area. We had witnesses who could give a direction of travel. We set to work negating the other escape routes. Then Finn was off. He was pulling hard in his tracking harness. Then everything just slotted into place. We tracked through a housing estate until we reached a dead end and an embankment down into fields. At the edge of the fields was a very dense area of hedges and undergrowth. I’d borrowed a torch, but you still couldn’t see 1 foot in front of you. Normally, I wouldn’t use a torch. I’d never want to give the game away to our prey that could be hiding nearby. But this wasn’t ‘normally’. This was our first job since that night. Finn was very excited and was telling me that we had to go through. He was indicating that someone was nearby. I had no choice but to send him through first. He’d never let me go first, ever. He’d always squeeze through if I tried. He was on a very short lead though. As soon as he was through, it was my turn. Head first, I made my way through the bushes. I can tell you that I was more than a little nervous. My boy was out of sight and I was in a very vulnerable position and Finn was telling me the person was very close by.
Once in the bushes we had to find a route through. Finn will always try to follow the line of scent, but with wind and weather that might always be in exactly the same spot it was laid; Over the years, Finn has dragged me through tiny gaps, holes in hedges and fences, over obstacles and through deep rivers following the line of human scent to find our quarry. He was very good at fitting through small spaces. At 6 foot and a lots of dog handler and protective vests and equipment, I wasn’t anywhere near so good. But you’ve got to find a way through. That’s what marks the difference between a determined and successful handler from the ‘one that got away’ type handlers.
A saying I’ve stolen from good handlers is;
If you don’t go home covered in mud, scratches and bruises, the chances are you weren’t pushing hard enough.
Well tonight would be no different.

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Once through the bushes we had to negotiate a barbed wire fence – all dog and handlers worst nightmare. Evil things.
Once over that, Finn tracked me through a muddy field towards a dark corner away from all lighting. My torch was off now as there was just enough light to see where we were going. As we approached the dark corner I could see the outline of a small structure. I hadn’t been aware of the horses in the field, and Finn wasn’t bothered by them, but the building was a stable block. Finn dragged me into the first stable and almost immediately found his prey hiding.
Illuminated by only torch light, on our own, a short muddy walk away from backup, we’d found him. The radio was full of unimportant waffle, at least that’s what I thought. Finn had just found a suspect at his very first job on his very first shift after returning from a remarkable recovery after being stabbed through the lung…….and I was a little uneasy. Finn wasn’t! It was like he’s never been away! He stepped back into that role without hesitation. But I wanted to not only announce to everyone what Finn had just done, but also to get backup to us ASAP. I’d say my tolerances after what happened to us were probably a little lower than normal. But I was aware of that and didn’t want to do anything I shouldn’t. So I pressed my emergency button, which cuts off everyone else’s transmissions and leaves the air open to me only. It gives a period of time so you can speak and leaves your microphone open. It was something I had to do that night of our incident. Admittedly, nothing was going wrong this time. But I wanted to get my message across.
I’m told that control room staff had all taken an interest that we were attending a job and tracking. Funnily enough it was the same team and one of the same controllers operating the channel that night that was now controlling this job. I’m also told that other officers from around the 3 counties were also listening in. When we pressed our emergency button, control room took a collective deep breath once they heard barking. Our number would have flashed up on their screen, a buzzer would have sounded inside the room, all officers on that channel have a loud alert sound on their radio and their radio lights up. There was a brief pause before I announced that we’d found someone. I think there may have been some fist pumping and possibly a little cheer. I couldn’t believe it either. I never doubted Finn, but Hollywood couldn’t have written that; our very first job on our very first day back.
I was a bit of a serial emergency button presser. The radio channels are very busy these days. They are often trying to sort out resources for the job we are working on. We are often a long way from backup and on our own. We want to get our position out immediately so that officers can head to us and assist. At another emergency button press, we once had a police helicopter almost land next to us as other officers were so far away. Then those officers managed to commandeer an off-road vehicle.
Back to this job; I gave the suspect a strict set of instructions to follow and made sure he knew not to mess around, or rather, Finn made sure he was left under no illusion that he was to do as he was told. Backup soon arrived, the supervisor was one of the first to get there. She immediately congratulated us, no doubt happy that he’d believed in us in the first place. Officers took control of the suspect and we carried on to check whether there were anymore suspects hiding or if they’d run away from that location. By now we’d been joined by a police helicopter, which is able to clear open ground very quickly and easily. We’d soon finished searching and after a lift from the supervisor we headed back to our vehicle. Everyone was gone. The suspect had been taken away. The vehicle had been removed. I was packing away…….He’d done it……He’d silenced his doubters…….He’d shown the world that you can’t keep a good dog down. A tear of happiness or 3 were shed……

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Happy Christmas from me and Finn.

We have a lot to catch up on from this week. It has been another amazing week in Finn’s journey and we are all so proud of him. But you will have to wait a few more days for part 23 of Finn’s story. In the meantime….

I have a lot to be grateful for this Christmas. I have a wonderful family, 3 amazing girls who astound me almost everyday. They’ve adjusted to many changes, tried to be the best, and dealt with what happened to me and Finn as if they were actually much older.
I also have an amazing wife, Gemma, who as usual has been my absolute rock. This house wouldn’t run at all without her, and she does all that with two jobs. She’s had to shoulder a lot all year, but especially the later part of the year. We both have jobs where each of us knows exactly what the other half could face on a daily basis. She can’t hide from that, and it can’t be hidden from her as she has the same job. I’d imagine most of her nightmares around that came true on the 5th October, and she struggled emotionally whilst keeping everything running like clockwork. She is amazing. ❤️
I have an amazing group of friends some old some new, colleagues and family that have been so supportive through all my ventures this year, and have been there for me and my family when we really needed it recently.
And then I have this boy;

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I have him to thank for me coming home alive that day, or possibly another officer does, as, if we hadn’t been there that night, what might have happened to another officer?
So, yes the year has been extremely challenging at times. But I’ve learnt a lot and now that my boy is back, this Christmas, thanks to him, is going to be truly great.
Thanks to all of you for your amazing support. You have shown me a side of society I had forgotten existed years ago.
Have a happy Christmas one and all.

What next for Finn? Could he? Would he? Part 22

Finn has had a fantastic week this week, and so have I. He never ceases to amaze me, and that’s not just since that night, but rather all the years I’ve known him. He has steadily been growing in strength and confidence over the last ten weeks. Never have I pushed him in any aspect of his recovery and recuperation, it has always been at his pace. I had no idea if he would be able to restart his training or do the job he loves again, nor whether I would want him to. After the first few days and weeks I was just happy that he was alive. As the weeks moved on though, he would sometimes come up to me and almost ask me to move his things on. After week two, for instance, he picked his ball up for the first time and almost threw it at me.

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The first time he touched a toy

That was the first time he touched a toy after his operation. That was a clear sign to me that he was ready to start playing games again.
He wasn’t allowed to do anything for the first six weeks after his surgery. He was only allowed a little wander in the garden. Not once did he moan, as long as I was there with him. But even during this time I was able to keep his nose sharp by hiding things and encouraging him to do a little search in the garden. Once he was allowed out of the house and around the block at home, I’d hide things on the route for him to find, but I wouldn’t tell him to search, he’d have to figure it out himself. He has always had a sharp and strong nose. It can be one of the first things to become weaker after an extended time away from work. But dogs enjoy using their noses, and if done correctly it can be a very low impact game to play. It also helps to keep their brains ticking over during periods of forced rest.
By the time Finn was allowed off lead again he had already been accompanying me to work for a while. I was now conducting training with other dogs and their handlers. Once training was out of the way or there was a lull in proceedings, I’d take Finn from our van and just allow him the opportunity to trot around the building we’d been using to train the other dogs. He seemed so happy, and after a while he actively started looking for the hide holes that we’d hidden people in for the other dogs to find. You could see the disappointment on his face once he realised there was no one in those hiding places to bark at. This for me was a huge pointer that his confidence was back, he was prepared to go looking for strangers in dark crevices of strange buildings again, even after all that had happened and all he had been through. He wanted this, so I started him off nice and easy and once he was distracted by something, I’d run off and hide. Over time I made the hiding places harder to find and more challenging for him. Eventually I replaced me hiding with other people hiding, but kept it all very happy. He smashed it and loved every second of working again.
It wasn’t long before he was coming out of the van like he used to; looking for something to do or asking me for an instruction. He loves working so much. This helped me to make the decision that I’d try and get him going in his training again. But I kept it quiet.
We then started back with his tracking. He’s always enjoyed tracking, and always been very good at it. It is also an awesome exercise for fitness and conditioning, not only of the body but also of the nose. Again he smashed it. I pushed it on to hard surface tracking and he lapped it up. And so it went on;
Obedience – tick.
Property searching – tick
Crowd control – tick
Agility – tick
Emergency recall – tick
What about bite work? Would he be happy with that after what happened to us? We have a scenario called and attack on handler that would need to be passed if he reached the test phase, how would he cope with that? Who could blame him if he didn’t want to do that exercise any more? Again though it was all done at his pace, everything was started with me, and only when he was happy would we move it on. Once holding on to a person playing a fleeing or fighting criminal would he stay held on? Would he let go? Would he run away?
I needn’t have worried at all. He absolutely destroyed his training. He was back.
Now it was time to put him to the test in licensing. Licensing for any dog team is a nervous and stressful time. No matter how much preparation you put in, it means so much that you can’t help but get nervous, and of course that nervousness feeds down the lead to you dog, to Finn. Dogs can react in all sorts of ways. They can become overprotective by feeding off of your feelings and interpreting the criminal as a bigger threat than it actually is. They can sharpen up their senses fearing they need to compensate for what ever is wrong with you, after all you are a team that looks out for each other.
I was nervous on the two test days we had this week. Phase 1 was on Tuesday and phase 2 was on Thursday. Failure in any part of the phases would either mean a period of further training but still on the street if it was a minor fail, a period of instructor lead training if it was a more serious failure or the end of his career potentially if it was a serious failure.
I tried to stay calm and just treat it the same as I’d treated his and the other dogs training and the training with newbie Hero-Diesel. The first exercise was a building search at a much easier level than I’d been training him for. He did great. And that’s how the rest of phase 1 went, as I like to say a lot recently, he smashed it.
So to phase 2. Not more or less difficult or more or less important than phase 1, except if he did this he’d have done it, he’d have shown everyone how amazing he is. Tracking, searching, property search, recall from a running criminal, attack on handler all completed and completed to a high standard. By the end of the day on Thursday he had indeed done it! I was emotional. Finn was just happy to be working. What a remarkable dog he is. He was on deaths door and may not have made it through the night, the following day, week etc. Now, just ten weeks later after that horrendous incident and all that followed he was a fully licensed police dog again. I am so proud of him and so is his family, my wife and kids. Hopefully you are proud of him too, you are now his extended family and friends.


I was on a high. Friday, Finn and I had been invited to visit a Guide Dogs for the blind training centre in London. This was as part of further learning for me for the job I love – training dogs – , and to help me see what Finn and I are supporting in our current fundraising;
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/guidedogfinn
These Guide dogs are amazing. They love their work and training and to see that training was brilliant. To then hear the stories from the trainers there about the difference these dogs make to their clients and some of the famous and not so famous people they had partnered up with their dogs made me realise just how important this work is. I am happy to be supporting them in anyway that we can. Finn met some of the staff there too.

So, how can we top that week? Well, you wait and see. We have a huge week planned. Lots of exciting moments hopefully, and some time in the spotlight for Finn at last maybe. Stick with us and you’ll find out……

P.S. Young Alex is now in America receiving treatment for his cancer. Please follow his awesome American journey here;
https://mobile.twitter.com/alexs_journey?lang=en-gb

https://m.facebook.com/alexgjourney/

From this to this in ten weeks. Part 21

As the title shows, Finn is a pretty remarkable boy. His recovery has been nothing short of amazing, such is his desire to still be here with his family. Last weekend we spent all of Saturday at Finn’s favourite place. For those that don’t follow us on Twitter (https://mobile.twitter.com/davewardell?lang=en)
here is Finn and his mate Maxi, who has been great in helping Finn get his strength, fitness and confidence back.

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Here, we did some hill running, jumping over obstacles and up embankments and trotting and running around after each other as well as negotiating rough ground and felled trees etc. You have to remember that Finn was extremely fit and healthy when that night happened. To go from that to total rest after lifesaving open chest surgery and the resulting 6 weeks total rest means that not only will his muscles have weakened but also his ligaments and tendons will also have taken a knock. These all need time to strengthen and mend after starting exercise again. We learnt all of this after his knee operation several years ago, and then we spent lots of time here at Finn’s favourite place too.

I mentioned the 4 puppies I was working with in the last blog, I’d had these pups for about 3 weeks now. I had to pick them up from kennels each day, train them, Finn and the other dogs under my instruction and then drop them back to kennels at the end of each day. It was a tough ask. Some days I had 8 dogs, all at different levels and with differing requirements to train.

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These puppies were bred by another police service and we’re all of a good standard. My job was to continue to bring them on in their training and then pick which dogs to keep and return the others back to the police service from where they came.
The dogs were all siblings and were from the H litter. They were called Harper, Hector, Hero and Hope. Choosing which two to keep was a very difficult task in itself. In fact, initially, trying to remember which H I had out of the van was tough. Once I’d remembered who was who, things got a little easier. Although anyone with more than one pet or child will understand this one; often I’d be halfway through saying a name and realise it was the wrong one and correct myself. I’m pretty sure Hector now thinks his name Harctor and Hero thinks hers is Hopero. Here was a helpful way to remember, done by a colleague

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Test day came for the 4 H’s I had, and two other dogs came in for testing too. This is always a tricky time as effectively those involved are showing off their skills in training dogs. It’s not really as simple as that as there are lots of factors at play, not least of which is money, sadly. Of the 6 dogs there there, 4 were needed for courses. Two would have to go home. It was a tough decision, but I was left to make it. The dogs were all so good that ultimately the last few places were down to the flip of a coin. Hope and Harper were to go home, and that was nothing at all to do with them as dogs. Both were amazing.
Tuesday I went to pick up Hope and Harper from the kennels for the last time and drive them several hours back to their original force. I always get emotionally attached. It’s difficult not to. You have to really try and get into their heads in a very short space of time to try and understand them and find out what makes them tick. For example, I sat in a room with Hero for about half an hour just trying to gain her trust so that she would want to come and play ball with me and not look at me with suspicion as someone who might try and steal her toy. It worked.
Once dropped off it was time to sit in hours of traffic and reflect on what I had learnt from Hope and Harper and how to progress Hector and Hero’s training. You learn something from every dog you have the pleasure of training, even if they are a tough nut to crack. I’ve probably been training dogs since I was about 12 years old, but professionally I’ve been doing it for about 8 years. Any trainer that tells you they know it all and don’t need to learn new ways should be avoided. I’ll be learning until I retire or die or both.
Hector was then off to his new handler to be run on alongside their current dog, that left Hero-Diesel – her full name, named after the special forces dog that died tackling a terrorist in Paris. Hero was going to be coming home with me. At this time I will be running Hero-Diesel (HD) on as a spare dog for the January initial course. It is thought that, if she isn’t needed between now and Finn’s retirement next year, she could be my next dog. No pressure then. HD is a bowl throwing, young, full of energy puppy who isn’t particularly quiet in kennels. So far she’s been ok…ish.

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Friday was a me day. Now I’d almost halved my workload by taking Hope and Harper home, it was time to repair. It is, as I’ve already said, a pretty full on and very physical thing training dogs. Some trainers prefer to stand back and allow others to play the role of the helper, and sometimes it is good to stand back and take a view. But when you have specific elements you are working on, it’s often easier to just be the helper yourself rather than spend half an hour explaining exactly what drive you are trying to work the dog in. That meant that my back was in a pretty sorry state. Time for a visit to the chiropractor. After an hours treatment, including acupuncture and a massage I felt great. Toby is well worth a visit if you are over this way.

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The fundraising is going really well. We’ve raised £900 since last weekend for our name a puppy Guide Dog called Finn. The money raised will support puppy Finn through its first year of training towards changing someone’s life forever. We are not far from £2,900, nearly 60% of our target has been raised.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/guidedogfinn
On Saturday a street collection was arranged by Sean Dilley in Stevenage for our fundraising. Stevenage is the town where the incident happened and the local press had plugged it in their weekly newspaper, The Comet. The response from locals was amazing. The people of Stevenage have blown me away with their support and kindness towards Finn. I was there to help with the collection and to hear that people were still following his journey was lovely to hear. The local MP, Stephen McPartland also came along to lend his support. Stephen has been brilliant in his support for Finn and his story and our calls for more protection for working animals.


We had some great helpers, both two and four legged.

The people of Stevenage have also helped, alongside the people on social media, to renew my faith in people. I spend most of my working life dealing with people who hate the uniform I wear and would quite happily rip my face off or are in the deepest darkest moments of their life. After a while that negativity wears off on you. You end up not being able to relax when you are out on days off. You end up sitting with your back against the wall in a restaurant when out with your family so you can see the attack, that isn’t going to happen, coming. Hyper vigilance isn’t very pleasant.
These last 9 weeks have changed me and my opinion of people. I have faith in people again. From something so negative, the positives just keep on coming.

Hopefully Finn will have some exciting developments this week, I hope to have an exciting visit somewhere and we may have a cool visitor…..

How do you beat that? Positives from negatives. Part 20

The following week flew by for a number of reasons. We were on a high after the parliamentary debate and I had just picked up the four 11 month old German Shepherd puppies for assessment to be police dogs.
We were visited by David Mackintosh MP at my HQ. This was great as it showed me his commitment, and that even though his job was technically done, he wasn’t going to let it lie. He and many other Members of Parliament are behind this and pushing it forward.

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Let’s not forget Finn, this is all about him after all. None of this would be happening if it weren’t for his brave actions and amazing recovery, and of course the public taking him to their hearts. Finn was also having a very good week. We were now allowed to start letting him open up and run around a bit more, he was certainly ready for it mentally and physically too. Having said that, he’d have happily started running around weeks ago. But his body needed to mend and make the adaptations necessary after his surgery. So to mark the occasion of him being allowed off his lead for the first time since that night, we visited his favourite place. This is a place Finn and I have spent many hours training together both during work time and out of it, and on our days off we’ve spent it relaxing together. It is also the place that, after an operation of his knee several years ago, we spent hours in the lake swimming together to help him strengthen his muscles, ligaments and tendons. Swimming is nice and low impact on the body but high in intensity and great for recuperation – whether you are a dog or a human. To begin with after his knee operation I had to teach him to swim properly and gracefully, but that’s a story for another day.
Needless to say that after years of coming to this place, that shall remain nameless, we are both very fond of it. It’s a place I can exercise him safe in the knowledge that I can relax and he can be my full focus. It’s a place we are made to feel very welcome and where the kettle is always on.
Finn was very excited as usual when we arrived with his kennel mate, Pearl. There is no point putting Pearl on a lead as she never goes far and when on a lead she just runs round in circles round and round me. So I opened the van and let her off to run around. I initially put Finn on his lead, which after six weeks of very restricted exercise, he was now very used too. The look on his face when I started to unclip his lead from his collar was brilliant. He couldn’t believe it. He took two massive bounds and then looked back at me as if to make sure it was ok. With a nod and a “go on, get on” from me, he was off.

He had a great time. I had to remember that he hadn’t had this sort of exercise for 6 or 7 weeks now and although he was in tip top condition before the incident, he had been through a lot since. He had a little paddle in the shallows of the lake and bounced around after his mate and a ball. But he soon tired. Then he and Pearl attempted their version of the mannequin challenge. This was filmed on the first attempt. Not bad for a spaniel.
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So, with all this great stuff happening why was I having such a tough week?
Finn was great. Work was busy but great with lots of dogs to train, which I absolutely love. Parliament had been great. Home was great. But I was struggling to deal with all sorts of silly little things that shouldn’t have been a problem. I was being approached with issues I didn’t need to be dealing with. People who once supported us now seemed to be shifting stance and moving away having used Finn’s face, name and horrific incident for their own gain.
Things were changing. The campaign had reached its primary goal of getting a change in the law debated. I was told that the Twitter account set up for that was going to be taking a different direction, and it felt like we were no longer needed. I kept finding myself in tears at the drop of a hat. The flashbacks, as I’ve already said, were much less. But that unpredictability meant it could be anywhere, at the shops, in the bosses office, sat in traffic or whilst picking the kids up from school. Of course people were also happier to ask me about it too now some time had past, which was great as talking about it helps. But sometimes I found I could talk freely about what happened and other times not.
With the support of my wife and children, friends and colleagues – two in particular Sean and Gareth – I was able to see that it was time to move on, but that moving on just meant to keep doing exactly what I was already doing; Positives from negatives, good from bad. What could we do to bring some good from something so bad? We’d already helped to raise many thousands of pounds and made big differences to two charities. Could we carry on? My mind was made up when I was approached by a colleague who told me that the family of retired and now sadly passed away MOD dog handler, Bob Shaw, had kindly donated £250 to a charity of our choice. That left me thinking about our next charitable move. Finn is a working dog. I love dogs. It’s tricky to do anything for serving police dogs. What other working dogs are there that make a difference to people’s lives?
I’d met and become good friends with Sean Dilley of Sky News and BBC News fame. He is a great and selfless man. Being a bit of a media guru he had the press side of the campaign sown up very quickly, and had produced some real hard hitting videos that got the public and media attention very quickly, one of which had over 2 million views! He had also been instrumental in getting Finn’s law not only into parliament, but into parliament and supported by MPs. He had been lobbying MPs for weeks. As I’ve learnt it’s good to have a petition supported by over a hundred thousand people, but without a follow on strategy it’s dead in the water. Sean was great.
Anyway, Sean is visually impaired and uses a Guide Dog to help him lead a life that means he can travel to London to work for example, Guide Dog Sammy. I wondered if we could do something around Guide Dogs. I’ve seen what a difference Sammy makes to Sean’s life and was beginning to understand that Sammy wasn’t unusual in that feat, there are many amazing Guide Dogs out there.
I contacted Sean to see if he could help me and he came up with the amazing idea of raising enough money so that when Finn retires next year we can have his name carry on in a working dog, a Guide Dog. We plan to raise £5,000 to not only name a Guide Dog puppy after Finn to carry on the proud name but to also sponsor that puppy through its first year of training. The hope is that Guide Dog Finn will go on to make a huge difference to someone’s life, like my Finn has made a huge difference to the hundreds of victims of crimes lives by finding their belongings and catching their offenders.
We held a fundraising event at my police headquarters where, with the help of 2 guide dogs, 3 trainee Guide Dogs, Finn and two other police dogs we raised £365. After just a week we had raised over £1,500 and as it stands now as I type this we are £67 under £2,000.

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We are on our way to naming a Guide Dog pup Finn and on our way to making a huge difference to someone’s life. Here is the link if you’d like to make a donation and please feel free to share this link so we can spread the word far and wide.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/guidedogfinn

If you want updates on Finn’s progress and the push for change in the law you will only find it on my Twitter account;
https://mobile.twitter.com/davewardell

Our day has come. Part 19

Finn isn’t the only hardworking working dog out there. Apparently there are 1,119 police dogs like Finn around the country helping to protect us everyday and a huge number of specialist dogs too. But, of course, police dogs aren’t the only dogs making a difference to our world, looking after people and changing lives for the better. They all deserve our respect for the work they do. Without them many peoples lives would be worse off. That includes the role of military dogs, and of course horses.
Here is Finn paying his respects to those animals that served in the many conflicts around the world over the years, those that did a fine job protecting and detecting, some of which didn’t get to come home. I think we all know the story of the military sniffer dog, Theo, who in 2011 died of a broken heart after his handler and dad, Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan. The two had uncovered 14 home-made bombs and hoards of weapons in just five months – a record for a dog and his handler in the conflict. Theo was at that time the sixth dog to be killed in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts of that time. Liam was the 358th service person to lose his life. This story shows the bond between a dog and its handler.

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The Purple Poppy is for the war dogs and horses. Please consider getting yourselves a Purple Poppy for next year. A quick search online will bring up the charity.
Dogs love having a job to do. Without them and other animals our lives would be a sadder, emptier place. That is being recognised more and more. I understand that police horses are used to help with officers rehabilitation after horrific incidents, and you only have to look at the community engagement that comes from police horses and police dogs on patrol and at events. Then we have our wonderful therapy dogs (and cats, shhh). They help to break down barriers, help people, including child victims of crime, to open up. Dogs don’t judge. Dogs don’t lie. They live in the here and now and don’t harbour grudges for years on end. We could learn a lot from animals.
Talking of having no prejudices, hang ups and living in the now, children are wonderful. One of the loveliest gifts Finn received was from a 4 year old girl who sent him her Teddy Bear. She hoped it would bring him comfort and said she thought he needed it more than she did. Thank you. Finn still has it and still plays with it.

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As I have already mentioned, Finn was allowed to accompany me to work. We were now half way through the period of increasing his exercise time to bring back his fitness and allow his body to adapt. He was now up to 45 minutes of leash exercise 3 times a day, and he was clearly feeling much better in himself. Now when he came out of the van he was looking for work to do. He would start to put his nose to the ground and apply his skills to try and find tracks or property and he’d start to bark at people who were near us to try and start a game of chase. Finn was now showing real signs of wanting to take those next steps. It was difficult not to let him do the things he wanted and loved to do. But I had to remember what he had been through and that his body was still mending and adjusting. He’d had bits of his body removed during surgery and muscles that had been sliced apart were fixing and joining back together.
Now and then though, I’d drop my wallet on the walk out and see if he would find it without being asked to on the way back. Of course, he did. He’d smell it some distance off and drag me to it and lay down and wait patiently staring intently at it waiting for his reward to appear, which it duly did. These little non impact exercises had many benefits for Finn. You could tell that he felt complete and needed. He would strut around when he had won his toy. His nose would also begin to get stronger. A huge part of a police dogs success is down to the strength of their sense of smell – anything up to 1 million times more sensitive than our sense of smell. But their noses need training to keep them in tip top condition. Finn has had some absolutely amazing results whilst out tracking and searching. It’s all down to his nose. So you could say his training started early. Just don’t tell Rob, the vet.
At work, I was now responsible for training 4 new 12 month old puppies called Harper, Hector, Hero-Diesel and Hope. These puppies are lovely, hard hitting, powerful and determined dogs. I was also helping to train a new dog team, getting Finn back to health, keeping Pearl occupied and assisting other dog teams who needed help with the odd discipline or other. I go home everyday absolutely shattered, but I love it. Training dogs is so rewarding. They always want to work, they only know how to give you their best, there is no negotiating, if they understand the exercise they will do it to the best of their ability….every time.

Our day had come….

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After all the hard work of many and lots of behind the scenes lobbying by a brilliant and persistent few, and the growing support of a large portion of what seemed like the nation, our day had come to hear the debate in Westminster Hall in the House of Commons, the same place Guy Fawkes was tried for treason.
I had considered bringing Finn along but he wouldn’t have been allowed in and he would have been pretty bored. So he stayed at home.
In the lead up to the debate we had lunch at Portcullis House, where MPs dine and take working lunches whilst at Westminster. We met lots of people whilst there from dog handlers that sweep the house each day for devices to MPs, journalists and other famous people. Everyone we met seemed supportive, but we had no idea how the debate would go. It wasn’t anything I could effect, but I was incredibly nervous. I’d had a terrible day the day before. The flashbacks and emotions were all over the place. I just wanted it started now, but the debate was a late one, it wasn’t due to start until 4.30pm.
Eventually it was time for us to walk through the tunnel linking Westminster to Portcullis House.

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We appeared on the other side of the road underneath Big Ben (yes I know, that’s the bell not the tower). We made our way across to Westminster Hall with its 900 years of history, which we were adding to.
We met a few MPs and ministers briefly before the debate started. Then the debate started at 4.30pm on the dot. I found the whole thing fascinating. After the Chair persons introduction the debate was opened by David Mackintosh MP of the petitions committee, who was very supportive of the idea of status and better protections. There were a few moments where David had to give way to other MPs from both sides of the House, including Paula Sherriff, Gareth Johnson, Christina Rees, Sir Roger Gale, Holly Lynch, Jason McCartney, Mims Davies and Stephen McPartland, and they too were supportive.
Then it was the turn of the Shadow Policing Minister, Lyn Brown. She started by talking about her dogs. We were on to a winner with Lyn. She was great. She piled on the pressure for the Policing Minister.
During these speeches there had been many well wishes for Finn and even for me. There had been some funny and some sad stories told. I found myself sitting there, often with a tear in my eye, pinching myself and reminding myself that this was all because of my brave boy who was probably sat at home in our bay window, or by the door awaiting my return.
Then it was the turn of the Governments Minister for Policing, Brandon Lewis MP. What was he going to say? Would it be similar to the response the Government had put out just a few days before the debate, which wasn’t very positive? I imagined it would be. Brandon opened by talking about his dogs too. It was all very relaxed and he too mentioned the dogs that sweep the house each day, as had other MPs. Hang on, the Policing Minister was sounding supportive – something I hadn’t expected. By the time he’d finished we had cross party support for change. No one spoke against the need for change. What that change looks like remains to be seen. But clearly the protections in law that working dogs have aren’t right and need changing. The Minister has promised to check on what is currently available and look into why they aren’t working and then move on from there. Keep your fingers crossed and please keep up the pressure on your MPs.

This is Finn with David Mackintosh MP

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Once the debate had been concluding brilliantly by David Mackintosh MP, and the cameras had stopped all the ministers and MPs came over for a much more informal chat. Again, the noises being made were very supportive. I left the debating hall much more optimistic than I had entered.

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It was now time for a beer. We only had the one, I promise. Everyone there was exhausted. This was the end of a journey, a long, tiring, at times stressful, and after tonight a promising one. As I said, the fight continues, as does Finn’s story…..

Please could you support Finn and I in our next fundraising venture. We are looking to raise enough money to name a Guide Dog puppy after Finn and to sponsor the dog through his first year of training. Guide dogs make such a huge difference to their families lives, allowing someone with no or impaired vision to lead a normal life. Here is the link;
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/guidedogfinn

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about Alex. We are in contact with him and his family regularly and look forward to sharing his next steps in his journey with you, and the up and coming release of the music single in aid of his fundraising called Horizon on my mind downloadable here;
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Horizon-My-Mind-Alexanders-Journey/dp/B01MG7JK03

The good that came out of the bad. Part 18

The press and public interest in Finn’s story continued to rise. Ricky Gervais, Nigel Owens of rugby fame, Graham Cole from The Bill and many hundreds of thousands of people were getting behind Finn and the campaign for better rights for working animals.
We had a visit from the Mets Kingston police who bought round a huge pile of gifts from their local residents and followers. Whilst there they shot a short video of Finn for their followers. That video hit 100,000 views in just a few days.

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Finn received a lovely jacket from Ruffwear after we showed how much fur had been shaved off. We also had a zebra print one brought round by a friend, and another lovely person made him a coat and a jumper. Now he is totally spoilt for choice when he goes out during these cold weeks and months whilst his coat is growing back.

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The campaign was by now in full swing as I mentioned. A new video was added to the campaign which included that picture of Finn in front of the fire and the picture of a broken window asking big how they could possibly be seen as the same in law. This message seem to have struck a cord and the video has been viewed, I’m told, 2 million times! 2 million times! That’s incredible.

I had decided early on that we needed to use the public interest of Finn’s story and recovery for any good that we could. Clearly that included potential law changes, but also charitable causes if we could. One of my senior officers, who is a dog lover too, came up with the idea of a dog walk in aid of a local animal rescue based near to my home. They help to rescue and rehome dogs and other animals that have either come from pounds or owners that can no longer care for their animals.
http://www.lunaanimalrescue.org/
The police press office decided to combine the day with a small press call for Finn. This was Finn’s first day out since that day and since the vet had given us the all clear from the lump.
The press call was well attended and the final piece that went out that evening was great. They asked me a question that put me right back in that back garden on that night. The pause I gave in the news piece was me having a horrible flash back about what happened to my boy. The resulting sentence was in a wobbly broken voice where I fought to hold back my emotions, but I’m told from people who had seen it, it was obvious what I was going through and helped to show others that point too.
From the press call I went down the to local park where about 100 people had gathered for the walk.
Finn wasn’t allowed to be a part of the walk as he still had some mending to do. But his friend Pearl was there on his behalf.

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We met some wonderful people and their lovely dogs. The walk helped to raise over £1,000 for Luna.

We had another visit from Rob, the vet, to check on Finn. During that visit I was shown a number of amazing pictures of Finn during his operation, pictures I hope to be able to share with you in the new year after the court case. This pictures blew me away. They are quite dramatic and heartbreaking but also pretty amazing. You’ll see what I mean when I can share them. Anyway, during that visit Rob talked me through a plan of the next steps for Finn for the coming month of November. It all sounded very promising and involved slowly increasing Finn’s daily amount of exercise. I asked Rob if Finn could accompany me to work. I understood the limitations of what he could and couldn’t do. I wasn’t asking if Finn could work or train, just accompany me in our van. In Finn’s mind, I believed, he would think he was at work and this would help with his recovery and sense of purpose. I had now been asked to take up an instructing role for the foreseeable future anyway and I was no longer an operational officer as part of my recovery. Rob agreed much to our delight, but with the condition that the day’s weren’t too long, he had lost lots of fur, it was now cold and Finn’s body was still recovering. And so the very next day, just under 4 weeks from that night when he nearly died, Finn came back to work….in his mind anyway. It was lovely to have him back with me. I’d been to work for a few days the week before, and it had been hard for me him not being there. It had also been hard for Finn, according to my wife.
At work, Finn was greeted by lots of handlers and other police staff as the hero he is. This is something that still happens once people realise Finn is around.
That weekend was Hallowe’en. This is Finn in a witches hat.

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We were now becoming involved in raising money for young Alex of http://www.alexsjourney.co.uk/home
Someone had suggested that I find something to wear in a picture with Finn. I decided to ask people for donations to either keep a picture of me in a onesie with Finn off of social media or to get it on there. I posted the threat and put up the link to the donation page. £350 later it seemed most people wanted to see it. So here it is. Remember you can’t unsee it once you’ve seen it. But also remember, before judging Finn and me, that it was for a good cause and for good causes you don’t need any shame.

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I warned you!
We had arranged to head up to Warwickshire the following weekend to visit Alex and his family at a special event arranged by Warwickshire police for Alex. The amazing event was to film the video for a song to be released early in December to help raise money for Alex’s treatment. The song is called Horizon on my mind and it can be pre ordered and downloaded by following this link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Horizon-My-Mind-Alexanders-Journey/dp/B01MG7JK03.

Wouldn’t it be nice to drop X Factor off the top spot? Instead of making a rich man richer you’d be helping a young boy to live and see the world.
Alex was escorted in by police motorcycle escort and Police horses.

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The police helicopter did a flyby and the driveway of the Police HQ was lined with police dogs, including Finn’s friend Pearl. Finn and Alex got to meet each other during the visit and were instant friends for life. Pearl also got to meet Alex.

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We were made to feel very welcome and Finn was treated like a hero there too.

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Police dogs were now back in the public eye for all the good work they and their handlers do up and down the country everyday. I’ve seen lots of great stories since Finn’s horrible incident. Another good thing to come from Finn’s story.
Alex and his family and I had agreed with the support of the Finn’s Law campaign and sponsored by Police Hour to have some Christmas cards made up to sell to raise money for Alex. Alex set about drawing a picture of Finn to be used on the front of some of the cards whilst #FinnsLaw ran a poll to see which police horse picture should be used for the other cards. Police horse Pie was chosen. A picture was taken at Alex’s event to be put on the back of the cards of Finn and Alex together to add to these special cards.

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When these cards went on sale, they sold out that same evening. Another batch were then offered and again sold out immediately. Around £400 was raised for Alex. Last night, Alex’s original drawing of Finn was auctioned and raised a further and rather amazing £1,320.
Anyway, the visit went very well. Both Alex and Finn were exhausted afterwards….so was I.

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Finn rested well and Alex went back to hospital for rest and further treatment. We stay in contact with Alex and his family and hope more visits, events and fundraising will take place between the two inspirational characters….

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