Police Dog: From Another Perspective





London Metropolitan Police veteran Windy Gale sent us this story based on reviewing one of John Stolarki’s Old Newspaper Clipping webpages. An interesting perspective from another police agency regarding police dogs.




In 1967 after returning from Hong Kong I joined the Metropolitan Police in London, England. After my initial training I was posted to PR Sub-Division at Bromley, Kent which was luckily where I lived anyway. However I was delighted to find after I had been there only a few months that our own Sub-Divisional Dog Handler was a man called Tony Hewson who turned out to be the cousin of a boy I had known in my childhood and who I had already followed into the Royal Navy and who had, unbeknown to me, then joined the Met and was serving in the very next Sub-Division. I got to know Tony Hewson fairly well and soon came across his cousin, Barrie Hewson, who was also a Dog Handler. Perhaps because of my earlier friendship with Barrie, who was a few years older than myself, Tony would sometimes ask for my assistance when working with his dog.

Photograph of

Photograph of London Metropolitan Police Dog members.

I do not know how long Tony had been a Dog Handler but within a year or so his old dog died and he got given a new one. Some time later he was still trying to get this new dog up to scratch and the one thing he could not get it to do was to “Sound Off” as he put it, once the dog had located whatever it was searching for.

One winter night Tony asked me if I would assist him to try to get this dog to bark once it had found its “suspect”. The idea was that it would be sent to look for me and once it had found me it would bark and warn his handler that it had done its job whilst it stood guard over me. This I readily agreed to do and after our mid-shift refreshments I left the police station as instructed and went a short way away to hide myself in a local park. Now in those days we had not long been issue with what we called “personal radios”(PR’s) which we carried on a harness attached to our outer uniform and with which we kept in touch with the station and other officers on the Sub-Division.

So having told the Inspector what we intended to do and with his agreement as I was only a Foot Patrol on that night, I removed the battery from my PR so as to avoid giving the game away whilst the dog was searching for me.

I stood in the shadow of one of the many trees in the park with my body flattened against the trunk so as not to stand out against the otherwise dark background. I heard Tony approaching the far side of the park and then I heard him tell the dog to “Go seek!” I could just about see the dog in the dark and I watched him prowling around the grass trying to pick up my scent I suppose. Eventually he found me and stood in front of me but did not bark. I could hear Tony saying things like “Where is he boy!” and “Go find him!” but the dog just stood there daring me to move. I was in full uniform of course, including our heavy duty mac and woollen gloves because it was a chilly night.

The dog walked round me once and then came up and seized my sleeve which he held in his jaws. Still no sound from the dog. I could see Tony quite some way away still searching in the pitch black for his lost dog. Then the dog started dragging me away from the tree and away from Tony too. I soon realised that he was dragging me across the park and towards the gate that lead to the police station. He still made no sound but there was no chance of me not going where he intended to take me. Tony had given me instructions not to make a noise, let the dog tell him where he was!

This dog was telling no one anything! In the end I called out to Tony as the dog dragged me by my sleeve out of the park and towards the “nick”.

“Tony this dog has found me but it taking me back to the nick himself!” Tony then spoke to the dog from a distance but still the dog made no sound. In the end Tony realised where I was and caught us up. Once the handler was present the dog released my sleeve, which by now had two teeth mark holes in it, and sat quietly at his feet watching me! The dog got a ticking off and then we all went back to the nick for a cup of tea. Exercise over! The dog eventually got the idea and became a good tracker and general police dog, thank goodness.

I can recall one other incident with this dog which bears repeating. One night duty we had been called to a house where burglars had been disturbed and though many units had turned up the suspects had disappeared into the neighbouring large gardens. The duty dog was called and Tony and his dog appeared and started tracking from where the suspects were last known to have been. Unbeknown to us the two suspects were arrested in another road about ten minutes later and taken to the local nick which was nearer than our own one. However Tony could not be contacted for some reason, probably his PR would not work or something like that, and about twenty minutes later he reappeared much farther down the road that we were waiting in. As he approached us a pong of manure type nature started to make its presence known.

Cor! Where is that terrible pong coming from,” we asked Tony when he arrived by our car?
It’s my b….…..y dog,” said Tony. “He tracked those suspects through garden after garden, over and through fences, and I followed behind with a tracking lead in the dark so as not to give our position away. The b…..y dog went up over a compost and manure heap and I followed him because I was following where the lead went. Typically, he is lighter than me and walked over the top of the heap whilst I followed him in the dark and walked right through the blinking stuff! Hence the smell!” It was a good thing that he had his own transport because none of us was keen to share our cars with him until he had had a change of clothes back at the nick.

Tony went off to another Sub-Division eventually and we acquired another new Dog Handler by the name of Billingshurst if I remember correctly. (We often got to know each other in those days by our Divisional Number which was carried in several places on our uniform, mine was 618P whereas I think Billingshurts was 847 or something like that.) He had a fairly young dog who would go off like a rocket if he got the chance when following a scent. One afternoon we had a suspect go to ground in a partially demolished house and the dog was called in to flush him out. The handler went in to through front of the house, the door was completely missing, and having released his dog he came round to the back of the house in case the suspect made a dash for it from one of the rear windows. I was already there but he joined me and encouraged his dog by calling to it. Suddenly the dog flew out of an upstairs window and landed on top of its handler, narrowly missing me as well. The dog clambered off his master whilst I helped him to his feet and he obviously decided that for some unknown reason perhaps the dog had simply exited the upper floor when he heard his master’s voice. So as there were already two pc’s at the front of the house in case the suspect left that way, the dog and its master returned to the front and he put the dog in again. He then rejoined me at the rear expecting to see either a fleeing suspect or hear the dog informing him that he had cornered the suspect inside the house. He had barely arrived when the dog flew out of the same upstairs window again and this time landed almost beside his handler. We could not understand it. The dog had never lost his nerve before as far as the handler knew, so we both got one pc to guard the rear whilst we both went into the house by the front door.

He set the dog searching again and it hurried from room to room downstairs without apparently picking up a scent. He was then told to seek upstairs and we watched as the dog raced up the staircase and were amazed to see him launch himself out of the same window at the top of the stairs, presumably as he had already done on two occasions before.

This was too much for P.C. Billingshurst and we both climbed the stairs together to find out what was spooking the dog. As we reached the top of the quite lengthy staircase it became apparent why the dog had flown through the window in front of the staircase. There was no floor at all in the vicinity of the staircase on the first floor, it had either been removed or had collapsed at some point. So the staircase looked perfectly normal until you actually got level with what would have been the first landing. Then you would quickly discover that there was nowhere else to go because the nearest bit of floor was some way away where the first room upstairs started. The dog must have rushed up the stairs in his usual eagerness and then found there was nowhere to go and did the obvious (to him) thing by leaping over the missing floor and shooting directly out of the nearest window. Luckily we did not attempt to ascend the stairs at the same speed as the dog had done. It turned out that the suspect was long gone and he was arrested a few roads away later.

Barrie’s dog was a rather big Alsatian and very strong as well and I remember him telling me of his embarrassment when his dog was appearing at a Horse Show and due to his strength did the unexpected. I cannot now remember the name of the dog now for certain but I have a feeling it might have been “Prince” but I remember it being a fawny brown colour with areas of black in the normal places. The Met. Police Dog Display team were appearing at the show to demonstrate the ability of the dogs at tracking and finding missing objects. The display took place with the handlers and their dogs at one end of the arena and with several objects laid out along the length of the arena, one set for each handler and dog. The idea was that at the command seek the dogs would leave their handlers and go through an imitation bunch of shrubbery to find whatever object the handler had asked it to look for. The competition was to retrieve the objects in a given time and the first handler to regain all the items would be declared the winner. The dogs set off and disappeared from the handler’s sight through the imitation shrubbery and then gradually each dog returned with the item that the handler had told it to look for. Barrie’s dog was doing very well and they were in the lead. However to complicate matters a little for the dogs the last item had been placed in a tin bath of water to make it harder to find. Barrie’s dog returned with the last item but instead of staying beside Barrie as it should have, it disappeared back through the shrubbery again much to Barrie’s embarrassment. The other dogs finished their retrievals and sat obediently beside their master and the public’s attention naturally shifted to Barrie and his dog which was no longer visible to Barrie.
Then there was a titter of amusement coming from the crowd followed by a round of applause and some cheers, all of which thoroughly puzzled the embarrassed dog-les Barrie. Suddenly the shrubbery parted and Barrie’s dog appeared with the massive tin bath in its jaws which still had quite a lot of water in it, as he “retrieved” it for his master! It went down well with the public but Barrie did not know whether to be embarrassed or proud!

In my days in the force the typical transport for the Dogs was either their own handler’s cars or a BMC Minivan. It could not have been very comfortable for the dogs but the Met in its wisdom, or penny-pinching, had decided at this was the ideal transport for a dog and its handler. This was in the days before twos and blues and all the dog van had in the way of a warning instrument was an electric bell on its front bumper, plus its usual motor car horn. Normally the crew of a dog van would be two handlers and two dogs because they covered a whole division and anything nearby that needed assistance, unlike most police vehicles which normally stayed within their sub-division. However sometimes there was only one dog handler available and it was considered difficult to drive the minivan and operate the radio set at the same time, especially when on an emergency call, so when that arose the handler often reverted to his own car and left the minivan in the yard.

However our own Superintendent was not happy about that so he decreed that the handler would use the minivan and be accompanied by a normal p.c. throughout his tour of duty. As I had been a wireless operator in the Navy for 12 years before joining the Force and as I also got on well with all the dog handlers, I was asked to leave my motorcycle in the yard and join the dog handler in the minivan for the 8 hours that made up our tour of duty. I enjoyed it and I got asked to do this substitution on more than one occasion.

Now our local Superintendent was a silver haired elderly man, Mr. Shepherd, who was renowned for being a member of the Met. Police Choir. It was often claimed that if you were likely to get a ticking off from him, just try taking the wind out of his sails by talking about the choir before he started and he usually reduced his reprimand in return. Now one afternoon we got an emergency call to a neighbouring village at a time when the traffic on the road between our nick and the location was generally heavy. Unbeknown to us as we left the nick yard, Superintendent Shepherd was only a few minutes ahead of us, going in the same direction, on his way home. Our little minivan was not very obvious to other traffic because of its size and Billingshurst had a devil of a job trying to get anywhere fast with it even though this was an Emer-call. We had only gone about half a mile when we found ourselves behind the Super’s car and it was fairly obvious by his head movements, visible through the back window, that he was singing to himself on his way home. We had our headlights on to draw attention to ourselves hoping that other traffic would give way to us where possible, but do you think we could attract the Super’s attention when we were directly behind him.

We sounded the horn and flashed the lights in his mirror but to absolutely no effect. He was in the middle of the road and there was no way that we could pass him safely with the amount of oncoming traffic. Billingshurst was muttering under his breath and doing all he could safely to attract the Super’s attention so that he could pass him. Nothing doing! So I GONGED him! You pressed the button on the dashboard and held it down until the offending vehicle gave way with the bell ringing out from the front of the minivan with a shrill peel. DERINGGGGGGG! Not once but twice before he heard us. That moved him! We shot past as he pulled over and simply acknowledged the courtesy but inside the van we were doubled up in a not very professional fit of giggles. I fully expected to get a rocket the next day but, much to the lads and the especially the Station Sergeants amazement, nothing was ever said. But the story of my “GONGING” the Superintendent seemed to be knocking around the station until I left the Met. Perhaps nobody told him it was me or perhaps he was too embarrassed to publicly admit that he was not “driving without due care and attention!

This is not a tale of heroism or bravery but simply one that you might appreciate as being the humorous side of being a Dog Handler. I enjoy your Old Newspaper Cuttings and I am very grateful for them. As editor of the Scarlet Force Collectors Newsletter I am often appealing to my readers for stories from their time in the Force because it puts a more human face on a subject which is often regarded by the public as being heavily disciplined and military with no room for humour, which is not always true.
Yours gratefully

Windy Gale, ex P.C. 618P Warrant No. 158071 London Metropolitan Police