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Scottish Ministry of Defence Police officers take on fundraising challenge for canine charity

Eleven Ministry of Defence Police officers will be taking on an endurance challenge around Aberdeenshire in a bid to raise money for a national charity that supports retired police dogs.

PC Phil Duncan, 40, from Fraserburgh, is leading a team of fundraisers in a 12-hour fitness challenge to raise vital funds for the Thin Blue Paw Foundation, which supports and celebrates serving and retired police dogs across the UK.

PC Duncan joined Grampian Police in 2000 and transferred to North Aberdeenshire in 2010. He joined the Ministry of Defence Police in February 2019 and commenced his police dog training course six months later, partnering with general purpose dog, PD Hörbi.

The three-year-old Belgian Malinois was paired with her two-legged partner in October 2019.

“We passed our initial training course in December,” PC Duncan said. “Since then, we’ve gone from strength-to-strength. I see improvements in her every day and have also learned a lot about myself.

“Our normal day is spent patrolling the St Fergus area both on foot and in vehicle. Hörbi loves tracking and we always try to work on training regularly too. She’s also by my side on my days off which involve lots of walks and training exercises; being a dog handler really is a full-time job!”

On 14 August PC Duncan and his colleagues will be running and cycling as far as possible in 12 hours around St Fergus, Aberdeenshire, to raise money for the Thin Blue Paw Foundation.

He added: “Being a dog handler I know dogs that the Foundation has helped and I wanted to try to raise awareness and money for the charity. Afterall, Hörbi might need their help one day.

“I enjoy getting out running and cycling and, while I've never won anything, I've done a few races ranging from 5ks to a marathon. I fancied trying to push myself beyond 26.2 miles so it's a bit of a personal challenge as well!”

Initially he was going to take on the challenge alone but word soon spread through the office and soon PC Duncan’s colleagues started asking if they could get involved too.

PS Chris Shephard, PC Scott Massie, PC Ollie Smith-Mearns, PC Claire Woodcock, PC Michael Summers, PC Andy Brown, PC Dan Barry, PC Paul Molyneux, PC James Gorham and PC Mark Grey, who is currently training to be a dog handler, will all be joining in.

Thin Blue Paw Foundation trustee Kieran Stanbridge said: “There are around 1,500 working police dogs across the UK carrying out a vital job and helping to keep us all safe. We estimate that around 200-300 dogs, just like Hörbi, will retired every year and while some will stay with their handlers' others may well be adopted by fellow police staff or by members of the public.

“What many people are unaware of, however, is that these canine heroes receive no ongoing support in their retirement from the police force they served with. This means that the responsibility for their care – and associated costs, which can be hefty – falls solely to their owner. Working dogs can have injuries or medical conditions as a result of their physically demanding lives meaning that most are uninsurable so the charity was founded to help provide much-needed financial support to retired dogs and their owners.

“But this is an expensive undertaking and we need wonderful supporters like PC Duncan and his colleagues to help us raise the funds we need to fund these vital operations and treatments and ensure that our unsung canine heroes can live long, happy and healthy retirements; it’s the least they deserve after years of service.”

• To donate to the fundraiser please visit the team’s JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/team/StFergusFitnessClub.

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