Charity helps retired Ministry of Defence dog as owners struggle during Covid

A new charity set up to support ex-working dogs in their retirement helps a former military dog receive vital hydrotherapy as his owners struggled due to Covid.  

Rescue dog Kaiser was 10-months-old when he was found straying in Plymouth, Devon, having been turfed out of his home by his owner who couldn’t cope with him.  

Staff at the rescue centre who took him in contacted the Ministry of Defence where he was paired with handler, Ian Brake, and started his general purpose training.  

For five years, the duo worked hard to patrol an atomic weapons establishment in Berkshire. Kaiser lived at home with Ian and his wife, Heather. But, during a night shift in 2016, German shepherd Kaiser was on patrol when he fell down a hole and broke his leg.  

Heather said: “He shattered his leg and had it in a cast for eight weeks; four of which it was held in a bent position to encourage it to heal correctly.” 

Kaiser, who turns 11 this summer, had three months of physio and rehab but was then retired from duty and the couple were given the opportunity to adopt him as their pet.  

“There was never any doubt that we wanted to adopt him when he retired,” Heather said. “We had to pay £5 to adopt him – but we’d have paid 1,000 times that!” 

He’s gone on to cost them much, much more and – as an ex-working dog – is uninsurable. He has weekly hydrotherapy, costing £45 a session, as well as a daily immunosuppressant, costing £5 per tablet, plus regular pain relief, supplements and other treatments like canine massage.  

Heather added: “Kaiser is riddled with arthritis and has spondylosis, partly caused by his leg break and also due to wear and tear from his working life. Hydrotherapy really helps Kaiser live life to the full and that’s all that matters to us. We’ve paid for it for almost five years now and we’ve always managed it. He comes first.  

“But times have been really tough during Covid. I’m a dog walker and my business has taken a huge hit. My clients have been amazingly supportive but, with a young son at home too life has been tough! So when we registered with the Thin Blue Paw Foundation and saw that they were offering grants to retired working dogs with ongoing treatments we sent in an application and were absolutely thrilled when he was accepted.” 

The charity has agreed to pay for 22 sessions of hydrotherapy, giving Heather and Ian some financial respite. 

Trustee Kieran Stanbridge said: “Police and military dogs receive wonderful care during their working lives but, when they retire, most dogs receive no ongoing support and that leaves a lot of pressure on their new owners. Dogs like Kaiser worked incredibly hard to do their job and keep us safe. They deserve to live long, happy retirements and the Thin Blue Paw Foundation is here to ensure they receive the support they need to do so.”  

Heather said she felt really emotional when the charity stepped in to help. She added: “We’ve tried so hard for years to help him live his life as best as possible so for someone to turn around and offer to help has been amazing. He really does deserve it. Kaiser is everything to us. He attended our wedding with our other dog, lurcher Radley, and the dogs come everywhere with us. The charity is such a weight off our mind. If something really bad happened we know we have somewhere to turn and ask for support.”