Just Giving

'A Hero's Tail' is written by John Gaye from contributions by South Wales Police officers and illustrated by Nerys Baker.

The book features a foreword by Paul O'Grady.

Our aim is to publish a new book annually with stories to be provided by other police forces, the armed services and agencies throughout the world. These participants will then benefit financially from the proceeds of the book sales.

An initial run of 20,000 copies of 'A Hero's Tail' was launched on 8th September 2013 at the South Wales Police Family Open day.

The book is now available to purchase from Amazon, Waterstones and many veterinary surgeries - and also online from the above link. The cost is £9.99.

All funds raised from the sale of the book will go to improve animal welfare and to updating the facilities for the serving dogs and horses of South Wales Police.

A Hero's Tail - Sample Chapter

Life has its Ups and Downs

All police dog handlers will have incidents that will remain in their minds for the rest of their lives. Certainly this incident required no reference to any notes of evidence for total recall even years after it happened.

PC Alan Russ

I'd been a police officer for twenty years and a dog handler for seven. Over that time I had worked with three General Purpose dogs, but Chase was always my favourite. We came together as a team purely by accident. My previous dog had retired early and Chase had been donated by a member of the public unable to control this boisterous fur ball.

Chase was a longhaired German Shepherd, sort of light beige in colour and quite the most handsome dog you could ever imagine. That said, he was a big boy, weighing in at 32kg (ie about 5 stones or half a human). Chase was wonderful with my family and had lived with us now for five years. He adored both my two kids and my wife. However, as soon as I put my uniform on, he would change from a playful, mischievous youth to a dedicated partner. Like most police dogs and horses he seemed to know his role in life. Put simply - to serve and protect.

I thought I had seen everything there was to see that the job could throw at me. How wrong can you be? I'll never forget that night in 1996. It started off perfectly normal: a typical mid-week night shift you could say. There had been the usual good-natured, light-hearted banter typical of any police station before setting off. It was raining. I settled myself in for a night of humdrum activity coupled with the odd interjection of boredom. How wrong was I!

Suddenly a call came over the radio to say that a female police officer had disturbed two suspects breaking into a furniture store. She was in pursuit on foot and both she and the suspects were heading down the same road as I was travelling on. Luck was on our side - this was going to be a good night. No sooner had I smiled to myself and put the lights and siren on than the two suspects suddenly appeared in my headlights. I honestly don't know who was most surprised, me for them landing in my lap or them for being the unluckiest villains in Wales.

I stopped the van and immediately jumped out. In typical fashion the two would-be burglars turned and ran. I raced around to the back of the van and shouted 'Police Dog Stop'. This of course made no difference except possibly to make the two lads run even faster. Immediately I released Chase and, true to his name, he was off like an Exocet missile. I jogged along behind, letting him do the work (and me take the credit!) Within seconds I heard that sound so familiar to all police dog handlers - a human being whimpering. I got to the scene shortly and there was Chase detaining the first suspect. Quickly, I got him to release the guy and as luck would have it my colleague caught up with us. I handcuffed the miscreant and left him in her custody.

I turned back to my dog. I could not believe my eyes, Chase, my faithful partner was gone. The thrill of the chase was too much for him and instead of waiting for my command he was off in pursuit of the second suspect without any instruction from me. I felt completely redundant and pondered that if they ever got dogs to drive, I could be out of a job.

I shouted and shouted, but nothing - so I set off along the track in the only direction my errant canine partner could have gone. I was cursing him for a sudden streak of disobedience. Proud of him for showing such commitment and panicking quietly that I might not get him back for hours. That would take some explaining and some mickey taking for months to come. All these thoughts going through my mind and it was still raining!

Suddenly there was the sound of wood cracking and as I rounded a corner I was met with a sight in the distance that beggared belief. My mind simply could not compute it. There was Chase latched on to the leg of the remaining suspect, who was straddled across the top of a tall fence. Nothing strange in that but what came next was incredible.

The suspect who was a slightly built young man, suddenly with what appeared to be a feat of superhuman strength lifted himself over the fence and took Chase skywards. Chase was completely off the ground with his feet firmly on the fence. I am sure in the moonlight I saw his eyes widen in disbelief. Again there was that sound of wood cracking and I feared the worst.

To lift a 5 stone German Shepherd off the ground normally takes some strength, but to do it with one clamped to your ankle is unbelievable. As I ran towards them the thought went through my mind that if he was that strong then perhaps I had better radio for back up as even Chase and I together could have problems with this guy. I am so, so glad I never made that call.

Chase was by this time angry and in a fit of snarling rage dragged the suspect back over the fence. Seconds later, the guy was at it again. He lifted Chase clean off the ground. I ran as fast as I could to give Chase some urgent help, only to see him valiantly drag the suspect back to our side of the fence again.

It then became clear as to why Chase and the suspect had been in a see-saw motion backwards and forwards over the fence. Unbeknownst to Chase and me, there were two other police officers the other side of the fence pulling the suspect over! Chase had clamped on his leg and simply was not going to give up his prize.

How the other officers did not laugh (although I think playing tug of war with a very angry German Shepherd for a few minutes may have had something to do with it) I will never know. We arrested the suspect and escorted him back to the Panda car. When I got back from patrol it brought a great smile to everyone at the nick and certainly raised a few spirits among those whose evenings had been less entertaining.

Chase has now sadly passed away. We will never forget him, even though every dog I had partnered has been equally special. The family miss him, but we never did let him play see-saw or tug of war with the kids - you see he was too good at it for two fully grown Bobbies to beat! I still have the best job in the world though.

Some reviews

  • A wonderful, heartening set of stories which will appeal to all dog lovers...
  • The stories are written with skilful, descriptive anecdotes, bringing warmth and life to the events in a way that makes you laugh out loud at some of the events...
  • Great book, irrespective of the great reason for it being published...
  • Brilliant book, very funny and well written...