Let’s hear it for our hidden heroes

Lady B with PD Stella, a rescued Staffie who works with Gloucestershire Police as a search dog

Lady B with PD Stella, a rescued Staffie who works with Gloucestershire Police as a search dog - Credit: courtesy Countess Bathurst

Lady B's no-nonsense banter from Cirencester Park

I absolutely love dogs. To be fair, I’m smitten by all animals. Unconditionally.  

This is common knowledge, and I wear the badge with pride. They are our companions, members of our family, and they’re there for us in our darkest hours. None more so than the dogs and horses of the emergency services who do so much to keep us, the public, safe. 

We’re all familiar with police dogs. They find the baddies, search for missing people, seek out drugs, weapons, and cash – and they protect us from danger. And when they go after someone, they mean it.  

I’ve ‘taken a bite’ from a couple of police dogs. Happily, I was not actually legging it down the road, having relieved a bank from their cash, with a bag of swag over my shoulder – it was all under highly controlled circumstances. But they still meant business, and I was very relieved they were not genuinely angry with me. We’re still great friends, and they have my undying devotion and respect.  

Police horses work closely within our communities with remarkable results. The gift they have to diffuse a difficult situation is immense. I’ve watched as an agitated individual has approached a police horse, and the reaction is extraordinary. The tense shoulders drop, the hand raised in anger is softened as it touches the horse’s strong neck, and the shouting drops to a calmer, more measured tone.  

Police horses maintain a presence at large public events and act as guides, they patrol the countryside in areas where other vehicles cannot reach, as well as help in searches for vulnerable individuals. These magnificent creatures are huge and have an equally massive heart. They are brave and calm, and can be placed in any situation, sometimes highly dangerous ones. We should never underestimate what they do for us.  

Most Read

But there are other animals that play a vital role in our emergency and public services, and not so many appreciate what they do.  

I speak of our prison dogs and fire dogs. You would be surprised at the number of people who don’t realise they even exist. Quite often I get the reaction ‘Fire dogs? Is that even a thing?’ 

Yes, it is – and they do an extraordinary job.  

Prison dogs help keep communities within our prison estates secure. There are two types: General Purpose, and Search Dogs. The GP dogs maintain order in what can be a dangerous place, quite simply they keep the peace. Prison Search Dogs are used to find contraband. This could be drugs, explosives, and mobile phones. They’re essential, and prisons are safer places for their presence. 

Fire dogs are just as vital. Fires sadly do happen and often the source is clear, but for the more complicated investigations, the causes of fires are sometimes less straightforward – especially if arson is suspected.  

Fire dogs are trained to find the smallest amount of flammable liquid long after the flames have been extinguished. And in doing so, they save the taxpayer incalculable public funds, because they can get straight to the source. 

As the saying goes: ‘The nose knows.’ 

All these unique animals are highly trained and extremely intelligent. They take weeks to learn their craft, and they don’t just poddle off into the sunset after they’ve passed their initial exams, never to be seen again. Not a bit of it. Every year they must go through a rigorous re-licencing process, and they don’t go back to regular duty until they’ve passed.  

There is constant training throughout the year when they return to practice and refresh on a regular basis. Police dogs have trained here at Cirencester Park for generations, and I love going to watch them. Incidentally, I’ve never seen a dog reprimanded or struck; instead, it’s all teaching with positive reinforcement – and they absolutely love their job. 

Their handlers and riders are rightly proud of what they do, and I believe we should be unendingly grateful for their presence in our lives.

Follow Lady B on Twitter: @CotswoldLadyB