For as long as I can remember my eldest daughter Hannah has wanted a pet dog. She’s already had several rabbits and currently has a cat and several fish that’s she’s done her best to take care of. None of these quite offer the companionship, fun and unconditional love that a dog can though. A dog is a completely different proposition.
Her mum and I too have always liked the idea of a dog to complete the family. A pet that can offer an additional dimension to our frequent camping holidays and that would potentially help us do more as a family at the weekends. We’ve been mindful though of how much work it is to look after a dog, that it’s a long commitment and that it can be fairly restrictive in terms of going out, even if for only a few hours.
Always On The Birthday & Christmas List
Given that until recently both of us worked more or less full time a dog was always going to be a tall order for Hannah no matter how many times it was on her Birthday or Christmas list. If we were ever going to have a dog we wouldn’t want it couped up all day while everyone else was out at school or work. That’s no life for a dog.
South Yorkshire Police Recruit Puppy Foster Carers
A change in ‘Mums’ working circumstances and a chance hearing of a radio advertisment however offered a potential solution. Whilst driving along we heard an advertisement by South Yorkshire Police recruiting year long foster carers of puppies. These puppies would eventually become working dogs for the police force.
After checking out their website and phoning up we found out more about it. Basically litters of Springer Spaniels, Labradors and German Shepherds were being bred by the Police force for use in active service. Specifically the German Shepherds were being bred as General Patrol Dogs whilst Labs and Springers were being bred for more specialist work, for detecting drugs or explosives.
These dogs only start getting trained by the Police at 12-18 months, once they have grown a little and matured somewhat. Prior to that they need a period of normality. They need to get used to the world, to gardens, streets, people, noises sights and sounds. That way once in service they’re not easily startled and will react favourably to anything they see. Being a follower of football it’s always struck me how well behaved the Police dogs are around chanting crowds at a match. Stands to reason they’ve been conditioned and then trained.
As puppy fosterers we would basically get them use to the world and there would be no better training ground than our noisy, cluttered house. This scheme meant Hannah would get the dog she longed for and as a family we’d be able to test the water in terms of having a dog. If it didn’t work out in this instance the dog could go back to the Police and even if it did we would only have it for a year or so. Following this we could potentially get our own ‘forever’ dog.
All Dog Supplies Provided
The deal is sweetened further by the fact that the Police supply everything you need for your home to get started. They supply all the equipment, leads, coats, dog crate, grooming kit and even their food! Furthermore they arrange and foot the bill for all the vetinary checks and injections. If you already have holidays planned or wanted a short break the dog can also go to the kennels at Niagra in Sheffield. What’s not to like?
It all seems like a perfect way in to test the water. We’re under no illusion though that we’ll all go doey eyed over the pup and it will be heart wrenching to give up something we’ve grown to love over a year. It will be like losing a member of the family I’m sure.
After giving the whole thing some thought as a family we decided the positives outweighed the negatives and would give it a go. We contacted South Yorkshire Police and after having some intitial background checks undertaken and completing a questionaire we were given the go ahead pending a home visit. They wanted to know about our family environment. They actively encouraged these dogs to be put into busy family homes rather than that of a retired single old person, that would be a better normalising proposition.
A Unique Naming Convention
The breeding program is quite relentless for the Police. As dogs go out of the service there needs to be a ready supply to go into it. We were advised recently that a litter of German Shepherds were on the way. A Shepherd wouldn’t have been our first choice especially after having a black lab growing up, that would be perfect. Nontheless we were happy and geared up to welcome the new addition to the household. We were even told about the naming convention that needed to be adhered to. Each litter is given 2 initials that a name must be chosen to begin with. Furthrmore the name mustn’t have more than 2 syllables. Partly to accurately age the pups and the litter going forward but also so that every dog doesn’t get called Rover or Fido I guess.
The letters assigned to our litter of German Shepherds were ‘O’ and ‘P’. We had lots of fun coming up with male and female names for both. Some of the household faves were Oscar, Olly, Pip and Percy.
Unfortunatley we were to be dissapointed as the litter born was smaller than expected and the pups were offered on a first come first served basis. Our name was last into the hat but we were assured that we would be first inline for the next litter which was likely to be that of a Labrador, perfect. This would also give us a little more time to prepare the house and get it puppy proofed!
Police Dog Handler Home Visit
Part of the process of vetting also involved a current serving dog handler with the Police force coming to check us out. This hadn’t happened prior when we were up for getting a German Shepherd as things had moved so quickly. We were given prior notice by phone that an officer would call in a some point to do this.
So on a Friday evening (07/08/15) at around 7.30pm we received a call from Gary or Gaz as he later introduced himself. He came along to look us over and basically ensure we knew what would be involved in taking on a puppy. He was keen to stress the bit about giving them up after a year and how hard that would be. It was really interesting hearing him talk about how dogs are used in the force and the bond that they have with the dogs. First and foremost though they were tools, working dogs to help them do their jobs. He said right from the off we would have to show them some tough love so that they understood who was boss.
After looking over the house and advising us to protect a few surfaces and bits of furniture he said he would put a recomendation through for us to foster a puppy. He asked my youngest Eve which she would prefer, a Labrador, German Shepherd or a Spaniel, to which she answered a Pug! Just like uncle Gordon. Even this big tough Police Officer couldn’t help but crack a smile and advise that Pugs weren’t currently involved in Police training.
Otto – A Serving German Shepherd Patrol Dog
Upon leaving he asked us if we wanted to meet his current dog, Otto a German Shepherd. This was in the back of the Police van outside. He opened the rear doors and with a little light from a torch (it was evening) you could see a hulk of a dog peering out from the dark. You wouldn’t want this animal giving chase after you. Gaz described it as a ‘no touch dog’ only the handler could touch him. Which he did putting his hand through the cage within the van and stroking him. As a test he asked that I moved forward towards the van. Just one step and the mouth of the Shepherd began to snarl, it made no noise but you were under no illusion not to go any closer. Our dog if it were a German Shepherd would be trained to be just like this.
So that brings us right up to date. We now await nature and a dogs natural 56 day gestation period to take it’s full course. We have a bit of a fence to fix to make a fully enclosed rear garden and names to think of. It’s likely we need to choose from ‘Q’ and ‘R’. We’ve plently of ideas for R but Q, that’s tricky to say the least! If you have any ideas please let us know in the comments below. Our next blog in a few weeks is likely to be when the dog is born. As part of the process you’re expected to visit fairly regularly, in fact daily if possible to bond with the pup. We’ll let you know how things progress.
If you’re interested in the dog foster care scheme or have a dog you can offer to aid with breeding visit the South Yorkshire Police Website.