Charlie, a rescue Dog from The Blue Cross adoption Centre in Tiverton, has overcome a difficult start in life by becoming the newest recruit of Cornwall Countys Councils Fire Brigades Fire Investigation Unit.
Proving that rescue dogs need not be held back by their pasts, the one-year- old bearded collie cross gave a practical demonstration of his role within the brigade during a special display at Truro Fire Station on Monday 28 April.
Charlies new duties with the investigation unit include accelerant detection by sniffing out ignitable liquids.
Despite his young age, Charlie had already had two previous owners when he was handed over to The Blue Cross by his distressed owners who felt they could no longer cope with the pressure his behaviour was putting on the family.
Blue Cross animal behaviour advisor Claire Luscombe, said: When I was first introduced to Charlie he was like a coiled spring with no idea how to channel his energy, but it soon became clear that he was an extremely quick learner. As many of Charlies problems seemed to be caused by boredom, the best way to deal with his behaviour was to direct this energy by giving him the mental stimulation he needed.
Seeing Charlies increasing unhappiness in kennels, Claire arranged a visit with Cornwall County Council Fire Brigade dog handler and trainer Sub-Officer Richard Gibbons. As Richards current dog, Nelson, is nearing retirement he felt it an ideal time to employ another dog.
Nelson has been working for the brigade since June 1997 and has worked on more than 150 incidents, resulting in five convictions, with the Fire Investigation Team.
Sub-Officer Richard Gibbons said Charlie has undergone a strict training regime. This started with basic retrieval training, using plastic pipes and cotton wool soaked in petrol hidden in various places outside. We then took the process indoors. The dogs learn not to get excited when they find an indication, but to sit next to the area. This stops any evidence being destroyed. The final stage is direct dropping of partially burnt liquid.
The training takes two months to complete and Charlie passed his certification this month. Charlie will now have to pass competence training annually.
Richard Gibbons added: I plan to work Nelson and Charlie together for a couple of months, slowly reducing Nelsons work load. When Nelson eventually retires, Charlie will be ready to continue his good work.
Pet Bereavement Deeply Affects Children, Says Animal Charity
Britains pet charity, The Blue Cross, is urging parents, teachers and caregivers to be aware of the emotional impact the death of a pet can have on children.
With national statistics indicating that people are now living longer(1), when a loved family pet dies it is increasingly a childs first experience of the death of something close to them.
The Pet Bereavement Support Services (PBSS), a telephone helpline and email service run by The Blue Cross and Society for Companion Animal Welfare (SCAS), receives a growing number of phone calls and emails every year from distressed children who have lost a pet.
The trained volunteers provide reassurance and comfort to younger callers who, in many cases, feel unable to communicate with school friends and family about their feelings of loss.
The Blue Cross warns that the extent of childrens feelings can sometimes be overlooked and that the way in which a child copes with the loss of the animal may lay the foundations for how they manage other losses later in life.
In response to these concerns, the charity has produced a support leaflet entitled Children & Pet Bereavement. Designed to be a useful guide for anyone supporting a child who has lost a pet, the leaflet highlights childrens reactions to pet loss, provides useful tips on how to support a child and also offers practical advice about getting another pet.
Fourteen-year-old James* was feeling confused and angry when he first coontacted The Blue Crosss Pet Bereavement Support Service. Jamess dog Tilly had recently been diagnosed with cancer and his parents had taken the decision to have her euthanased. He was feeling resentful towards a new puppy his parents had bought home in an attempt to replace Tilly and guilty about not being able to show affection to his new puppy.
Jo-Ann Dono, Head of PBSS said Children often form very strong bonds with their pets and, for James, losing Tilly was like losing a best friend or a member of his family. Overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger, resentment and guilt are common grief reactions not to dismiss or trivialise them. Speaking to a trained befriender helped James to talk through his feelings and to realise that what he was experiencing was completely normal.
BUPA psychiatrist, Dr Sally Cubbin MRCPsych, MSc, DCH said; It is important not to hold back information. Let your child know if a pet is seriously ill and faced with possible death. It is important that adults recognise that the death can be a learning experience for your child - a time to learn that death is real, final and natural and most important of all, a time to say goodbye. Some adults have the mistaken belief that we can protect children from these painful experiences.
Copies of The Blue Crosss Children & Pet Bereavement leaflet are available by calling 01993 825539 or by visiting www.bluecross.org.uk
* Names have been changed