VE Day Thanks  - News - Leicester Animal Aidfeature image

VE Day Thanks

There’s been a lot of talk lately (and quite rightly!) about heroes, from Captain Tom’s fundraising efforts for the NHS to the brave key workers on the frontline tackling Coronavirus.

On this, the 75th anniversary of VE day, we wanted to also remember and pay tribute to, some of the brave animals who’ve played, and continue to play, a small but important role protecting those who protect us. There are many occasions when animals represent a light in the dark when one is needed the most, and we’ve featured a few of our own hairy heroes below.    

Everyone knows the saying that dogs are man’s best friend, and here at LAA, we know only too well that for those who are socially isolated and/or housebound, a pet is not just a pet, but a lifeline. When we set up our Community Pet Support Service, we wanted to reach out to members of our local community who were reliant on their pet for company, friendship and emotional support. Many CPSS clients who benefit from the scheme today, were at risk of having to give up their beloved companion due to needing help with essential aspects of pet ownership like walking a dog or taking a cat to the vet. While none of the animals whose owners are clients on the CPSS are officially registered as ‘assistance animals,’ anyone who has ever had the love of a pet, understands the power of animals to prevent loneliness and bring structure and meaning where it is most needed. When you are housebound or have a disability, a pet’s companionship can be a comfort, a lifeline and a link to the outside world.         

But did you know that, in addition to the military roles that animals have played over the years, there is a list of other services that animals perform in peacetime that are just as invaluable to society?

At LAA, we have, over the years passed on a number of exceptional dogs to the police, including two German Shepherds and a Springer Spaniel. The Spaniel was put forward to train as a sniffer dog and one of the German Shepherds went on to be a valuable member of the Military Police as a patrol dog. Not every dog has what it takes to ‘pass’ their period of training with the police, and these dogs were put forward for their trainability, their intelligence, their ability to form strong bonds with humans and their willingness to please.

Of course, there are some breed characteristics that can give some dogs a head start when it comes to serving in the police. The Springer Spaniel is well known for its alertness, its agility, its trainability and desire to work. German Shepherds have a reputation for being confident, courageous animals, so it’s no wonder that these characteristics, along with their size and speed mean that German Shepherds remain the preferred breed for the police in the UK. But did you know that the sheer versatility of this breed has also led them to be used to search for people after avalanches?

A less obvious breed that springs to mind for work with the police is the Labrador and the Goldren Retriever. These breeds, which are better known for their work as guide dogs, are sometimes used as bomb, drugs and arson dogs due to their strong sense of smell. Other dogs that are used by the police are: Beagles (who are often used at airports) and the Malinois which is able to perform the same functions as a German Shepherd Dogs but is lighter in weight and tends to be able to work to a greater age than most GSDs.         

Not everyone knows that in addition to LAA’s work rescuing and rehoming animals, part of our mission is to educate the general public about responsible pet ownership. On our travels out and about in the community, we recently visited a care home for elderly people with a ‘casual’ member of our fundraising team, Blaize the Goldren Retreiver. Blaize has already had a career as a brood bitch for guide dogs, having had 4 litters of puppies over the years, many of which have gone on to be guide dogs themselves. Blaize is a perfect choice for visiting groups of elderly people because she is gentle by nature, loves people and is calm and well-behaved. Although it is not part of our work to provide ‘pat dogs,’ it’s always lovely to see how groups of older people respond to Blaize’s loving, gentle ways.

Below are some other, less obvious, services that dogs provide:      

Guide dogs

There are currently around 4,800 guide dogs in the UK, providing services to people who are blind or partially sighted. Experts believe that guide dogs have been used for centuries and there is evidence that they were even used in Roman times. More information, and a short film about the invaluable work they do is available here.

Hearing dogs

The charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People train dogs to alert deaf people to important and life-saving sounds they would otherwise miss – sounds that many people take for granted such as the doorbell, alarm clock and even danger signals like the fire alarm. More information about the service given by hearing dogs is available here

Hypo alert dogs

Hypo alert dogs are specially trained to recognise when their owner has low blood glucose levels. Specialist organisations, such as the UK charity Medical Detection Dogs, train dogs to recognise signs of low blood sugar and take action to prevent a medical emergency. More information is available here.

Sharing is Caring! 

Do you have a dog (or any other animal) that you believe helps you in some special way or has reacted bravely to a difficult situation? We would love to hear your stories of animal bravery and service. Please feel free to contact us through Facebook or Instagram messenger or by emailing info@leicesteranimalaid.org.uk  We would love to share your stories with our wider public. Sharing is Caring!