A decorated Scottish police dog who passed away after years of service has been immortalised in a mural set to be auctioned off to help raise funds for a national police dog memorial.
PD Kai is one of 13 dogs chosen by Shetland artist Annie Spear for the mural she created to help the K9 Memorial group.
And the finished work is now set to go on show as part of an exhibition organised to mark the official unveiling of the national memorial to the brave dogs who have worked side-by-side with UK police to help fight crime and save lives.
Kai was bought when he was two years old by Central Scotland Police in September 2011 and paired with novice handler PC Andy Inglis. It didn’t take long for Kai to show his handler the ropes and within four weeks of passing his initial course he had his first operational bite in Stirling.
Crime fighting canine
Unlike most dogs, Kai had way more than one ‘collar’ in his time - alongside his partner he helped to tackle criminals of all shapes and sizes, and were commended in 2014 when they tracked a trio of housebreakers in Maddiston, Falkirk, who thought they would be able to run off and hide in the local woods, only for Kai’s honed senses to sniff them out.
Kai received numerous recognition awards and in 2013 represented Scotland in the National Police Dog Trials, hosted in Wales.
Kai was still operational, now working for Police Scotland, when he had to be put to sleep in June 2018 due to a cancerous tumour.
After his old handler included a tribute to Kai on the K9 Memorial homepage, he was chosen to be one of the dogs featured in the mural.
PC Inglis said of his old partner, “He made me feel 8ft tall at work and was the biggest, kind-hearted softie at home. He has given me a lifetime of stories and laughs to remember. Always remembered with a smile.”
A picture of the mural has already had a huge response after it was shared on Twitter, and the finished artwork will be auctioned off after the unveiling of the completed memorial later this year, to help raise funds for the campaign.
The mural, and the memorial, both came about thanks to the work of former Essex police dog handler Paul Nicholls, who was looking for a way to remember his first four-legged partner Sabre after he died of cancer in 2006.
“I joined the police in 1987 specifically to become a dog handler,” Mr Nicholls said.
“When I lost my first dog in 2006, I was heartbroken, couldn’t cope with the pain. So I was looking for a way to try and remember him, and found there was nothing in this country but a plaque.
“I was gobsmacked. I looked around at other countries, and especially in America and Australia, they had lots of memorials, so I couldn’t believe there wasn’t one in this country.
That’s when I got started on all this.”
Mr Nicholls from Colchester, was awarded the Queens Police Medal in the 2017 birthday honours for his work as a dog handler, got a plaque installed at Essex Police headquarters and since then has pushed for a proper memorial - a dream which will be realised later this year.
“We’ve been fundraising since 2014, and I’ve been up and down the country giving talks, and hopefully making a difference. I have a roll of honour for police dogs on the website, and when I started it, I was shocked to find that some police forces didn’t even keep a note of the name of dogs that died.”
Anyone that has had to say goodbye to a beloved pet pooch will understand some of the pain police dog handlers can experience when their partners die, although Paul stressed it was a far deeper bond for them.
“Anyone that’s had a dog will know how much people care about them, and how devastating it is to lose them, but we work with our buddies all the time, and we have to trust them, and have them trust us, in incredibly dangerous situations.”
Dog trainer Victoria Stilwell is among those to commend the K9 Memorial project, saying, “Police PDs are not just dogs, they are a vital part of a crime-fighting team whose work should be celebrated alongside their human handlers.
“The loss of a PD partner is felt so keenly both by handlers and communities alike, and a memorial to remember and celebrate their courage and service will be of great comfort, not just to those in law enforcement, but also to the communities they serve.”
The finished memorial is to be unveiled at Oakland park in Chelmsford is on 12 April.