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Police dog who sniffed out drugs and firearms goes on to help adopter with mental health after retiring

A busy cocker spaniel who spent six years using her inquisitive nature and super nose to sniff out cash, drugs and firearms has gone on to continue helping people in her retirement; after helping her adopter’s mental health.

Cocker spaniel Milly was just 10-months-old when she joined Cheshire Police in April 2008 as a sniffer dog. The busy little dog was gifted to the police by her family who struggled to cope with her energy after having a baby.

She was trained as a cash, drugs and firearm detection dog and spent six years working to support police, help find illegal items, and put criminals behind bars. But her amazing work wasn’t done there; as the friendly pooch would go on to support her new owner’s mental health.

Book publisher educational consultant Judith Hooley, 57, from Epsom, Surrey, adopted Milly in July 2014 on her retirement. She said: “Milly’s handler was one of the police dog trainers and is married to one of my best friends. They asked if I’d be interested in taking her on when she retired.

“I was surprised they asked me as I’d never had a dog before and had two cats, but my children had asked a million times if we could have a dog and I finally gave in! I couldn’t think of any good reasons not to give her a forever home.

“I don’t do much exercise and have suffered with bouts of depression over the years so I knew that having a lively spaniel would get me out walking and that exercising and being outdoors would be good for my mental health. I said ‘yes’ to adopting her and I’ve never looked back.”

Judith spent the summer getting to know Milly and helping her to settle into retired life.

“I was worried at first that, as a drugs dog, she would be leaping wildly all over the furniture!” Judith said. “But she was impeccably behaved in the house. She was used to sleeping out in a kennel so it took her a while to realise that the bed we’d got her was really hers. She soon fell in love with her first toy and carried it everywhere with her!”

But Judith never could have imagined how much the spaniel would help with her mental health.

“Milly has given me more than I could ever imagine,” she admitted. “I never appreciated just how much I could love an animal as much as I love Milly. I’ve always had cats and they tend to be a bit aloof and independent. But, for the last seven years, Milly has been my shadow and goes everywhere (and I mean everywhere!) I go.

“She has a stubby tail and is famous at the park for wagging it all the time. Until recently her energy has been boundless and the ball throwing endless. We’re now on short, slow walks but still the tail wags and wags some more!”

As she’s aged Milly, now 14, has slowed down and her health has started to deteriorate.

“I’ve been lucky that Milly has been a fit and healthy dog for most of her life,” Judith said. “Sadly, over the last year, however, she’s started showing signs of slowing down. She has a heart murmur and failing kidneys, plus arthritis in her hips.”

With an ageing dog and unable to get pet insurance due to Milly’s working past, Judith turned to new national dog welfare charity the Thin Blue Paw Foundation for help with her medical costs.

Charity trustee Kieran Stanbridge said: “In the UK, police dogs do not receive a pension when they retire. Our charity provides much needed assistance from covering lifesaving surgeries to monthly medication; we support these heroic dogs throughout their retirement.

“Not only have these dogs giving much of their lives to fighting crime and keeping their communities safe, but Milly is a prime example of how much they continue to give during their retirement. Milly has been a wonderful support for Judith and has helped her mental health immeasurably; she’s a true hero and she deserves the very best retirement now she’s reaching her twilight years. That’s what we’re here for!”

After all Milly has done for Judith, this World Mental Health Day (10 October), she is calling for more support for retired police dogs, who have given so much to their communities and forces, and can often have health conditions caused by their strenuous working lives.

“I believe that police dogs should be supported once they retire, the same way a retired officer has a pension,” she said. “They’ve loyally done their duty and it’s brilliant that the Thin Blue Paw Foundation is there fighting their corner and reminding them - and others - that their hard work over the years hasn’t been forgotten or wasn’t appreciated.”

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