Falklands Police and Dogs Join Forces to Support Retired Military Canines
A group of Falklands military police officers and their dogs tackled a tough charity challenge to raise money for a new UK-based charity that supports retired police dogs.
Cpl Hannah Smith, from the military working dog section in the Joint Service Police and Security Unit in the Falklands, led a group of three colleagues in a 38-mile loaded march from their camp at Mount Pleasant Complex to the local town of Stanley, in the Falklands, along with her trusty companion, three-year-old Belgian Malinois, Coula.
Cpl Will Shrimpton, from RAF Conningsby in Lincolnshire and his three-year-old German Shepherd Fuli; Cpl Ali Northcott from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire and Sisko, a three-year-old German Shepherd; and Cpl Sarah Holmes, based at Defence Animal Training Regiment at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire and her five-year-old German Shepherd, Yse, also took part.
Cpl Smith – based at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire – said: “Each of us carried a weighted rucksack of 20kg and together we completed the march in seven hours and 48 minutes; we thought it would take us 10 hours but we smashed it out of the park!
“We really wanted to involve our dogs in the endeavour so we set up a relay with different dogs completing different stages, as some of them don’t get on!”
The team – part of the British Forces South Atlantic Islands – started preparing at 4am and set off at 6am on 28 April. They had aimed to raise £250 but pulled in donations of more than £3,150!
“Much of the route was incomplete road over varying including and typical Falkland weather meant it was windy in every direction!” Hannah said. “The sun held out for us and we were able to finish the march with blue skies as we came over the last hill into the town of Stanley.
“The support from the public and the people in the Falkland Islands has been incredibly heartwarming. We even had locals coming along to walk parts of the march with us.
“Our dogs Coula, Fuli, Sisko and Yse all enjoyed their stints and slept very well that night! We were all very achy and had a few blistered feet but celebrated with a few drinks afterwards. I’m really proud of the whole team.”
Hannah met Thin Blue Paw Foundation trustee PC Dave Wardell and RPD Finn at Crufts when she was part of the RAFP Dog Demonstration Team and, when deciding what charity to support, the team felt they wanted to help the organisation.
“Sarah retired her first RAF Police dog Messi last year so we know only too well what’s involved in taking on a retired working dog. The Thin Blue Paw Foundation is an incredible charity. We are both dog lovers and dog handlers so this is a charity very close to our hearts.”
Charity trustee Kieran Stanbridge said: “The whole Falklands team did an amazing job completing this march and an even better job of fundraising! We’re incredibly grateful to them for their support.
“We launched the Thin Blue Paw Foundation in August 2020 to help serving and retired police and military dogs. Many people are unaware that retired working dogs don’t receive any support when they leave their jobs and that many of them are difficult to insure because of their careers. We want to support the dogs and their owners, and ensure that they can live long, happy lives once they retire.”