Britain’s first ever police Staffie sniffer dog is handing in her badge and heading for a well-deserved retirement. After eight years on the front line of the fight against crime, rescue dog Stella is now looking forward to spending her twilight years being pampered by police partner and owner PC Claire Todd.
She has certainly earned it, after sniffing out thousands of pounds of stolen money, drugs including heroin, cocaine and ecstasy as well as guns and ammunition while on duty with Gloucestershire Constabulary. Now after Stella completed her final patrol, Claire said the ten-year-old is looking forward to lazing on the couch and being ‘spoiled rotten’.
Claire first met Stella when a friend who had taken her in from an animal shelter spotted her remarkable search skills. Claire said: “It became pretty clear that Stella was something special as soon as I met her. She has an immense sense of smell. But also to be a police dog you need drive and determination to keep going and want to search.
“She’s found at least three shotguns including one in a field that had been used in a crime as well as thousands of pounds in cash. The Bank of England uses a special sort of ink on notes and her nose has been trained to sniff it out.
“I am so proud that she was the first full Staffie to become a police dog in the UK. There have been four more since, but she set the trend. She had a tough start in life, but she’s been worth her weight in gold. She’s such a loving, loyal and intelligent dog. She loves giving kisses and having cuddles.
“She’s an old lady now, is going a little grey, and deserves her retirement. I love her so much, to me she is family, and my baby.”
Stella is one of five dogs at home, and Claire says she proves that Staffies make excellent family pets. She added: “Staffordshire Bull Terriers have developed a very unfair reputation – yet Stella is a brilliant family pet dog and wonderful with children. You could not ask for a more affectionate dog.”
And Claire is planning to repay that affection during Stella’s retirement. She said: “She’s such a special dog, she’s not going anywhere. Her future is going to include lots of long walks, day trips and cuddles.”
This is a really timely question. As the UK mourns the loss of the Queen, patron of Dogs Trust and arguably the world’s most famous dog owner, there is concern about how her beloved Corgis are coping at this sad time.
Although there is limited scientific evidence on how dogs respond to the loss of an owner, we do know that their behaviour changes when separated from owners. Like us, dogs get used to routines and when they lose an owner, everything changes, and this can be worrying for them. Dogs form very strong bonds with their people, so the loss of an owner may impact on their mood, and they may behave differently, possibly being less active or being withdrawn.
Your new dog has also had a lot of other changes and will have had to learn a whole new set of routines coming into your home and getting to know your family.
The best thing you can do is give him some time. Don’t overwhelm him with lots of new experiences. Let him get to know the family and immediate environment first before taking him to meet other people. Try and keep to a regular routine to start with as well.
Give him some space as well. If he chooses to settle down away from you, that’s fine. For some dogs it takes a bit of time to form a new bond, and he should start seeking out more contact and company over time.
If he stays particularly quiet or inactive for more than a couple of days, or if he develops other signs, then it would be worth visiting your vet as there could also be underlying medical issues.
Nights are drawing in, and there is a chill in the air, so it’s a good time to think about keeping your cat safe in winter weather.
Cats Protection has plenty of comprehensive advice online, and their top tips include making sure cat flaps are not iced shut, checking your cat comes home at night, and regularly checking sheds and garages to make sure a cat is not trapped inside,
They also say that in especially cold weather, you should keep your cat indoors, as domestic cats may develop frostbite or hypothermia in extreme conditions.