In the heat of the Lincolnshire sun, RAF Police Military Working Dogs and their handlers from across the UK have been fighting it out to determine who is ‘top dog’ and it was a RAF Waddington pair who scooped third place.
Royal Air Force College Cranwell provided the prestigious backdrop for the Military Working Dog Trials, an event that has not taken place for five years due to operational commitments.
With an audience that included the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, the pressure was certainly on for the competitors.
The trials are the culmination of months of technical evaluation carried out across the UK by the Provost Marshal’s Dog Inspectors, with only 12 patrol dogs and their handlers making the grade to compete at these national finals.
RAF Waddington took three of the slots with Corporals Sam Plant, Andrew O’Brien and Ashley Jackson.
Flight Sergeant Steven Hancox, Provost Marshal Dog Inspector, has been up and down the country since February leading the technical evaluations, he said:
“This year is particularly special as we haven’t had the trials for a long time. It takes a lot of hard work to be selected to compete, so this event means an awful lot to everyone taking part. To win it is truly special.”
Three days worth of heats saw the dogs and their handlers put through their paces in three different disciplines - wind scent exercises, obedience and obstacles plus criminal workouts.
The outcome of these heats whittled the 12 competitors down to five for the final.
Corporal Ashley Jackson and Air Dog Britt were one of the final five and just prior to entering the arena he said:
“I’ve done demos before but I have got the nerves and butterflies, but hopefully if my dog does well, I’ll be happy and I won’t be thinking about the crowd when I’m out there.”
In the arena, each pair set aside their nerves and exemplified the special bond that a dog and its handler shares and spectators were left in no doubt of their professionalism.
Following the months of preparation and the pressure of the finals, it was Corporal Stacey Graham and Air Dog Demon, stationed at RAF Coningsby, who took the coveted top spot as champions.
Corporal Oli Griggs from RAF Brize Norton was runner-up and Corporal Sam Plant, with Air Dog Resi from RAF Waddington taking third place.
A clearly delighted Corporal Plant said:
“I’m happy. I’m a bit competitive so I wanted to come first but you can’t win everything. Resi has done really well this week and it’s been really hot. I’m just happy with third place - third out of the whole of the UK isn’t bad!”
Pictures: Cranwell Photo Section