Posted 3 months ago
Fiji had a successful career as a police dog but has now retired. (Image: Jon Mills/SWNS)
By Joe Morgan
A police dog whose previous owner took their own life helped to save a man from doing the same thing and has been nominated for an award.
A Belgian Malinois named Fiji was just a four-month-old puppy when her owner died in tragic circumstances.
Chosen by Surrey Police and Sussex Police for training, she was paired with operational dog handler Claire Bird who had just returned from maternity leave.
Claire said: “After a three-month training course, we hit the streets and it wasn’t long before we had our first real test together. An emergency call came in for a high-risk missing person, with concerns they were suicidal.
"Within just a few hours, thanks to Fiji’s amazing nose and training, we located them. They were unconscious but alive, and Fiji saved their life.”
The dog had received a commendation for her work that night, but her police career was cut short when she suffered an injury.
She pulled the ligaments in her leg jumping for a toy, and she retired to live with Claire and her family in West Sussex.
Claire said: “Sadly, Fiji pulled a ligament in her leg one day, ending her career suddenly. Fiji, unfortunately, had to retire after six years of incredible service and now lives with me and my family.”
As an ex-working dog, the Thin Blue Paw Foundation agreed to pay for every injection for the rest of her life to help protect her itching legs.
Fiji is one of four service dogs nominated for the Autarky Hardest Working Dogs awards, a top honour organised by the Thin Blue Paw Foundation.
Her competition includes two German Shepherds: Wez, whose team has some of the highest prisoner detention rates, and Ziva, who specialises in finding missing people.
Rue, a three-year-old Labrador, who is one of the few fire investigation and rescue dogs in the country, is also nominated for the award.
Claire added: “Fiji is the most incredible dog and has helped so many people during her career as a police dog. While her career sadly ended early, I think she deserves recognition for the work she did."