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Explosive search dog who helped protect Royal Family now retired in the Devon countryside

Retired police dog Atos served in the Ministry of Defence Police for five years before retiring due to arthritis and a fear of travelling.

A military police dog who helped to protect the Royal Family during public events is enjoying a quiet retirement in Devon.

RPD Atos worked with his partner, PC Claire Addems, to keep members of the Royal Family and the public safe at large events. But the springer spaniel was forced to retire early after being diagnosed with a fear of travelling in the car and chronic arthritis.

Claire, from Ivybridge in Devon, was paired up with 12-month-old Atos in 2013 for their initial explosive search course at the Ministry of Defence Police HQ in Essex, after he’d been brought over from the Netherlands. Following the eight-week training course, Claire and Atos were based at AWE Burghfield, in Reading, Berkshire, for their entire five-year career together.

Claire said: “Atos was a fantastic search dog. He was so full of drive and had such a passion for his work. We worked together on many important jobs, including searches for members of the Royal Family in Portsmouth Dockyard and at Horseguards in London.

“Atos never failed me and always passed his licensing with ease, he loved to work and loved to please me and, of course, loved to get that tennis ball at the end of a job!

“Atos was incredibly enthusiastic in his job. Sometimes, that cause problems. He had no fear and wouldn’t hesitate which ended up in a few visits to the vets with split pads or cuts from running through bracken and forest.”

In 2019, at just six-years-old, Atos was diagnosed with arthritis and Claire also raise some concerns about the springer spaniel’s travel anxiety.

“He started to suffer from arthritis – due to the pressure he’d put on his body during his years of service – and as he got older his travel fears worsened,” Claire added. “It got to the point where I’d have to physically put him in the car as he’d avoid the vehicle at all costs.

“It was decided that Atos would retire and he then became my responsibility. The Army take care of food and medical costs during the dog’s working life but, as soon as they retire, all costs become the sole responsibility of the owner.”

Just a year into his retirement, in September 2020, RPD Atos ruptured his cruciate ligament during a walk. The Thin Blue Paw Foundation – a charity established just a month earlier to help support ex-service dogs in their retirement – stepped in to help Claire and Atos, and pay for £3,000 vet bill.

“We were faced with a substantial vet bill and, due to him being a retired police dog, we had struggled to get insurance for him,” Claire added. “That is when Thin Blue Paw Foundation stepped in and approved to cover all of Atos’s medical bills which were in excess of £3,000. I cannot express how grateful I am to the charity for their generosity and the financial pressure it has taken off me and my family.

“As a working explosive search dog Atos had all his vet bills paid for by the force he served, but, on his retirement, it fell to me as his new owner. This was a burden I was more than willing to take on but with charities like The Thin Blue Paw Foundation that burden is eased.”

Atos was the first dog helped by Thin Blue Paw Foundation which launched in August 2020. 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 RPD Atos are heroes; they’ve served our country and worked incredibly hard to 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.”

“It was a long journey to help Atos recover,” Claire said. “We would sleep on the floor of the kitchen to keep him company while he was on crate rest, we took him to weekly vet checks, and helped him completely regular physio and exercises to get his mobility back.”

Atos has recovered from his surgery and is now enjoying life once again.

Claire added: “With lots of love and cuddles, Atos is now back to himself. He’s pain-free and can enjoy walks again, he can run and his can swim. It’s so wonderful to see. He’s on pain-relief for his ongoing arthritis but he is comfortable and happy, and that’s all I could wish for.”

Atos loves water, enjoys jumping in big puddles and will bark with excitement if the outside hose is switched on to water the garden.

“God forbid if you fill up the watering can,” Claire laughs. “He’s got so much character and such a big personality. He has a basket full of toys that he knocks over when he wants to play, he loves belly rubs and cuddles on the sofa, and will do anything for a biscuit!”

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