Posted 5 months ago
Some dogs are a lot more than just extremely adorable pets (although they’re that too) - some have very important jobs.
Our police and military dogs are real heroes, often spending their best years working to keep us safe.
Sadly for one courageous pooch, Atos, chronic arthritis and travel anxiety has meant early retirement.
But while his career may have been shorter than expected, he’s had some pretty important assignments during his five years, even tasked with protecting the Royal Family at public events.
The Springer Spaniel is now enjoying a quiet retirement in Devon with handler, and now owner, PC Claire Addems.
Claire was paired up with 12-month-old Atos in 2013 for their initial explosive search course at the Ministry of Defence Police HQ in Essex.
Claire said: “Atos was a fantastic search dog. He was so full of drive and had such a passion for his work. We worked together on many important jobs, including searches for members of the Royal Family in Portsmouth Dockyard and at Horseguards in London.
“Atos never failed me and always passed his licensing with ease, he loved to work and loved to please me and, of course, loved to get that tennis ball at the end of a job!
“Atos was incredibly enthusiastic in his job. Sometimes, that caused problems. He had no fear and wouldn’t hesitate which ended up in a few visits to the vets with split pads or cuts from running through bracken and forest.”
In 2019, at just six-years-old, Atos was diagnosed with arthritis with Claire also raising some concerns about the Springer Spaniel’s travel anxiety.
“He started to suffer from arthritis – due to the pressure he’d put on his body during his years of service – and as he got older his travel fears worsened,” Claire added.
“It got to the point where I’d have to physically put him in the car as he’d avoid the vehicle at all costs.
“It was decided that Atos would retire and he then became my responsibility. The Army takes care of food and medical costs during the dog’s working life but, as soon as they retire, all costs become the sole responsibility of the owner.”
But facing a £3,000 vet bill after Atos ruptured his cruciate ligament during a walk, Claire sought help from The Thin Blue Paw Foundation – a charity established just a month earlier to help support ex-service dogs in their retirement.
Atos was the first dog helped by Thin Blue Paw Foundation which launched in August 2020.
“We were faced with a substantial vet bill and, due to him being a retired police dog, we had struggled to get insurance for him,” Claire added.
“That is when Thin Blue Paw Foundation stepped in and approved to cover all of Atos’s medical bills which were in excess of £3,000. I cannot express how grateful I am to the charity for their generosity and the financial pressure it has taken off me and my family.
“As a working explosive search dog Atos had all his vet bills paid for by the force he served, but, on his retirement, it fell to me as his new owner. This was a burden I was more than willing to take on but with charities like The Thin Blue Paw Foundation that burden is eased.”
Trustee Kieran Stanbridge said: “Police and military dogs receive wonderful care during their working lives but, when they retire, most dogs receive no ongoing support and that leaves a lot of pressure on their new owners.
“Dogs like RPD Atos are heroes; they’ve served our country and worked incredibly hard to keep us safe. They deserve to live long, happy retirements and the Thin Blue Paw Foundation is here to ensure they receive the support they need to do so.”
Atos has recovered from his surgery and is now enjoying life once again.
Claire added: “With lots of love and cuddles, Atos is now back to himself. He’s pain-free and can enjoy walks again, he can run and he can swim. It’s so wonderful to see. He’s on pain relief for his ongoing arthritis but he is comfortable and happy, and that’s all I could wish for.”
Happy retirement Atos!