Veterinary staff take on coastal challenge to raise money for police dog charity

Two members of staff at a veterinary surgery in Surrey were inspired by the police dogs they treat to raise money for a new charity that supports ex-working dogs in their retirement.

Practice manager Charlotte Bolshaw and Alyson Hardman, senior veterinary surgeon and owner of Rowley House Vets in Cranleigh, decided to embark on a fundraising challenge to raise money for the Thin Blue Paw Foundation; a national dog welfare charity that launched in 2020 to support working and retired police dogs.

Alyson, from Ifold in West Sussex, and Charlie, who lives in Weybridge, Surrey, were inspired to help the organisation after treating countless Surrey Police dogs over the years, as well as fostering puppies in training from the force’s dog unit, based in Guildford.

Charlie said: “We regularly look after the dogs from Surrey and Sussex Police Dog Unit and a number of staff at the practice have started puppy fostering and puppy walking for the training team. I currently have a three-month-old springer spaniel, called Martha, who I’ll take care of until she’s 12 months old and ready to go back for the next stage of her training. Our head nurse adopted retired police dog, German Shepherd Kiwi, and we all absolutely love her. She introduced us to the Thin Blue Paw Foundation and we were amazed by the work that they’re doing to ensure retired police dogs have long and happy retirements.”

The duo tackled steep 2,200m climbs, torrential rain and 50mph winds when they took on the 100km Jurassic Coast Challenge on 15 and 16 May, walking from Corfe Castle in Wareham to Bridport, Dorset. They’ve raised almost £2,000 for the charity.

Alyson said: “We chose the Jurassic Coast Challenge as it is the most challenging course covering lots of different terrain from roads to pebbly beaches to cliffs. The weekend was extra challenging because of the weather. The last 5km covered a steep climb and descent where winds were gusting up to 50mph.”

One retired Surrey Police dog supported by the charity is Fiji, a Belgian Malinois who spent six years working with operational dog handler (and owner) PC Claire Bird. During her career Fiji received awards for her abilities and even saved lives.

She was forced to retire early to live out her days with Claire and her family at their home, in West Sussex, when she pulled the ligaments in her leg jumping for a toy.

As she got older she started to get really itchy and vets prescribed her with a special injection to be administered every six weeks, costing £140. As an ex-working dog, Fiji couldn’t be insured so the Thin Blue Paw Foundation agreed to pay for every injection for the rest of her life.

Charlie added: “Police dogs deserve to be looked after following their years of service and we understand that, in some circumstances, they can be difficult to rehome. Ongoing medical conditions, which may have been as a result of their service, can be expensive making rehoming hard. It’s amazing that the Thin Blue Paw Foundation is there to help these dogs and their new owners, and to ensure they can live out their lives in comfort. We’re already planning our next fundraising adventure, although we might need to give our legs a bit of a rest first!”

Charity trustee Kieran Stanbridge said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Aly, Charlie and all of their colleagues for their support and for everything they do to help serving and retired police dogs in their local area. We support almost 300 dogs across the country and, since we launched in 2020 we’ve issued more than 50 grants to dogs and their owners for ongoing medication, regular therapy or treatment, and life-saving surgery. We can only do this vital work thanks to those people who donate to our cause and those who choose to take on crazy physical challenges to raise money.”