When police dog handler Louise McMullen was bed-ridden for six months and told she’d never work again she thought her career was over. But two years later she was back on the beat with her loyal dog Wolfie by her side.
And, just a few years later, she’d be by his side when he had to learn to walk again after being injured in a dramatic police chase crash.
Louise was working with police dog Usha in 2012 when she unexpectedly fell ill and was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome – or ME – and left bed-ridden. Doctors told her she’d never be a serving police officer again but she refused to give up hope of returning to her dream job.
With the support of West Midlands Police, Louise was matched with a new four-legged partner; PD Wolfie. After two years off of work, the pair slowly got onto their feet (and paws) and completed training again.
German Shepherd Wolfie was a large, experienced general purpose dog who was incredibly loyal and gentle.
“Wolfie and I were put together because my colleagues knew he’d help me get back to work,” Louise said. “I didn’t have to re-train with a young, boisterous dog which would have added pressure to my already struggling body and put more strain on my physical health.
“We have been together ever since and he has been the most incredible partner. We had many successes and he went on to qualify as a firearms support dog, one of the highest achievements for a working dog. He had many arrests, helped to find high-risk missing persons and had lots of incredible finds during his career.”
In November 2018, the duo were chasing armed robbers who’d used machetes and chainsaws to burgle a local shop when Louise’s car left the road.
“We skidded on wet leaves and hit a tree at 40mph,” she said. “I was knocked unconscious and when I woke up the car was on fire. My first thought was that Wolfie was in the back; I had to get my partner out of the car. I crawled out and managed to drag myself around to the boot to get him out. He collapsed and I thought he was going to die.”
Louise had fractured her jaw and eye socket, and injured her wrist and spine. Wolfie, who turned nine this year, had been thrown into the metal back of his cage on impact and suffered ‘massive’ internal and spinal injuries. Louise was taken to hospital by ambulance while her colleagues rushed Wolfie to the vets.
“Wolfie spent days at the veterinary surgery heavily sedated to ease the pain and needed intensive hydrotherapy and support to help repair the nerves that had been damaged in his rear end,” Louise explained. “He had to learn to walk again – just as I had only a few years earlier – and I was there by his side every step of the way.”
The pair were eventually signed off to return to full duty and hit the ground running but after just six weeks back in the uniform, Louise grew concerned about her four-legged partner.
“We had a really busy shift one night, just like the fateful crash night, and I got him out at a job to track a suspect but I knew instantly that something wasn’t right,” she said. “His behaviour was completely different. He was hunting for water and I was worried he was in pain from his previous injuries.
“I took him to the vets and they diagnosed him with PTSD. I contacted management immediately and told them I wouldn’t put him in a position that caused him stress or anxiety and they agreed; he was retired straight away. There was no doubt he’d be coming home with me; not after what he’d done for me and what we’d been through together.”
Louise added: “Wolfie is a big dog and weighs in at 42kg. His injuries from the crash weakened him and now he really struggles with chronic arthritis. He’s front-loading his weight because he’s getting weaker in his back legs and that left his front legs painful; he started chewing them off because it was hurting so much. It was awful.”
Wolfie, who was a finalist in the Kennel Club Friends for Life competition at Crufts 2020, now needs regular injections to help manage the pain.
“I came across the Thin Blue Paw Foundation on social media and registered Wolfie right away,” Louise added. “Now he needs a £185 injection every month and that’s a considerable amount of money to find on top of all of his everyday costs. The Thin Blue Paw Foundation came to my rescue and now he’s like a new dog; he’s jumping around like a kangaroo and moving much better.
“It’s so amazing that the charity offers support to dogs throughout everything. It’s not going to be a worry now and I know that I can make his life as good as it can be. It’s taken so much pressure off of us, as a family, and it gives us – and Wolfie – the security we need going forwards.”
Louise, who lives in Worcester with her husband, 14-year-old step-daughter and nine-year-old son, spent 13 years as a dog handler before being promoted to Sergeant this year.
Wolfie now lives at home with her family and enjoys barking at the postman. He spends his days waiting by the fridge for a carrot treat and popping as many footballs and rugby balls as possible!
“Wolfie means the world to me,” Louise said. “He’s been there and put himself in front of danger for me on so many occasions and I can’t thank him enough for that. That I got home to my family of an evening is because of him. He’s my partner, our bond is indescribable. There are just no words for it.
“This is the only way I can say ‘thank you’ to him. Because of the job I’ve asked him to do he now has these injuries so I need to make sure he has the most enjoyment out of life now whilst he can. The Thin Blue Paw Foundation has made this possible and I’m so grateful.”
Charity trustee Kieran Stanbridge said: “Wolfie’s story is absolutely amazing and goes to show that police dogs are so much more than tools who are used to help enforce the law. Police dogs are their handler’s partners, protectors and friends. The bond between Wolfie and Louise is so heart-warming and we’re so pleased that, as a charity, we can be there to help them both.”