Stikky’s Story

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Hi, I’m Stikky, a Belgian Malinois. This July I will be 8 years old. I live with my Mum and her family in Essex.

I first met my mum at the end of 2011. I was a course dog and she was a new handler; I was young and excitable and she didn’t like me very much to start with, but when she saw how I worked and what good fun I was, she fell in love. We were only together for a few weeks as the course had finished, so she went back to her base in Germany and I stayed in the Defence Animal Centre (DAC) to show more people how to handle a High Assurance Search (HAS) dog.

When the time came, and we flew out to Afghanistan for a six-month tour of duty. This is where I did the most work, especially in camp bastion as we kept practicing, ready to licence and hopefully go and do our job

Ever since mum left she wanted me back. Finally, six months later, I had passed all my test and was able to go to Germany too. She was so happy to see me. I was in time to go with her on an exercise in Jordan. It had been a while since I had worked, so I had forgotten a few things when it came to searching, but my mum had the patience to help me through. We then spent a couple of months in Germany where we did a lot of practice. I remember mum taking me out to work with her friend and her dog Deaf. We weren’t the best of friends but we were happy enough to sit close together with our mums for a memorable picture.

When the time came, and we flew out to Afghanistan for a six-month tour of duty. This is where I did the most work, especially in camp bastion as we kept practicing, ready to licence and hopefully go and do our job. There was this one day that mum thought she’d give me a run whilst the other dogs were still in; little did she know there was a goat round the corner, which I decided to chase. The urge took over and I didn’t listen to her. I figured out I love chasing livestock, but little did I know what trouble it could potentially cause for my future.

I looked after my mum on tour just as she looked after me, I kept her smiling with the daft things I would do but I wanted to protect her like she protects me

We managed to licence and were soon posted out to a patrol base. Here we were relaxed, I had a nice clean kennel which I made sure I didn’t mess in as it would be hard for my mum to clean. I didn’t need to mess as we had a routine, so I knew exactly when I would be let out to do my business. Mum would have me out of my kennel various times throughout the day either to work or to play. I loved working as I kept finding things my mum didn’t know were there.

Whilst in PB4, another dog handler came out with a black Labrador called Jake. Jake and his human went out on patrol a lot, so whilst his human was asleep, mum would take us both out together. Jake was the first dog friend I ever had, although he didn’t like me pestering too much as he would tell me off, but we did have fun entertaining our mum and dad. We then had Dyna, a golden Labrador come and join us, I liked her, she was pretty.

I looked after my mum on tour just as she looked after me, I kept her smiling with the daft things I would do but I wanted to protect her like she protects me, so when she was spat at on a patrol, I growled at the person who did it. No one should disrespect her like that.

We had to be assessed but no matter what our assessment said, someone decided that all dogs trained for HAS would not be rehomed, so that only meant one thing: euthanasia

Once tour was over, most of us dogs got sent back to Germany. We were all so happy to see our humans again. Over the next year or so mum was given different dogs to look after, as I was given someone else to look after me. Although mum rarely took me out as I wasn’t her dog, she would always say hi on her way past. I remember one day when she had me out to work. The goats were out too, but this time I didn’t want to chase: I was too busy searching. Even when they were right over my head, I didn’t batter an eyelid – but when mum tied me up to work another dog, they came over and was sniffing my bum. I wasn’t happy with this but I didn’t attack them, I just looked over to mum for help and she just laughed. I suppose it was funny for a dog with form of chasing goats to look scared.

At the time when Op Herrick was closing a lot of dogs’ futures were hanging in the balance. We had to be assessed but no matter what our assessment said, someone decided that all dogs trained for HAS would not be rehomed, so that only meant one thing: euthanasia. My mum wasn’t happy with that – after all I had done nothing wrong. She fought for me and she fought hard, she was not going to let me go without a fight. With my mum fighting for me, someone decided to give us another chance, so we were sent back to the DAC to be assessed again. This time they assessed us properly.

Finally I was going to retire with my mum. May 25th 2015 was just another day in a kennel, Jaime had come to see me, and then I heard someone call my name – it was mum!

There was this woman, Jaime, that I had briefly worked with before; she knew what I was like and loved me for who I am, just like my mum does. I had both her and mum fighting my corner, and it still took 6 months with a lot of changes of decisions along the way, but we got there. Finally I was going to retire with my mum. May 25th 2015 was just another day in a kennel, Jaime had come to see me, and then I heard someone call my name – it was mum! I had never been so excited! I was jumping about, running to the end of the lead to jump into her arms. I couldn’t believe she was her to take me home.

She wasn’t meant to, but she took me back to Germany as she still had a bit of time to serve before she left the army. I stayed in her room, I didn’t mind. I had my own bed, lots of people to stroke me but most of all I had my mum with me. Whilst in Germany I made many friends, not just human friends but four-legged friends as well. First here’s Peter, mum’s rabbit, which a lot of people thought I would eat, but I like Peter and respect the fact that my mum loves him too. There was also Basco, another retired ex-military Belgian Malinois. We became best of friends and went on many walks together.

I now live happily with two other bitches, Fudge and Maddy. I love Maddy, she is gorgeous and we always get caught kissing

Finally mum left the army and she took me home to Essex. It was weird to start with, I wasn’t used to being in a home where people are likely to step over you, and where another two dogs will constantly barge into you, so I was a bit growly to start with. I would only tell them off and then walk away as I didn’t want to hurt them or get told off. I soon settled down and realised that they were nice people that I could trust.

I now live happily with two other bitches, Fudge and Maddy. I love Maddy, she is gorgeous and we always get caught kissing. Fudge sometimes plays chase with me in the garden. If mum is unable to walk me her mum will take me out, which I don’t mind as she cares for me just as much as my mum does. When I go for walks with my mum she lets me off lead. Sometimes I look for things to chase, but I am getting better at responding to her whistle, and she rewards me with playing or treats. My mum has helped me get used to retirement, socialising with other dogs and knowing how to behave when out and about.

We have been on a few holidays, many village fetes and dog shows and this year she took me to the Essex young farmers show, where there are lots of dogs, children, and livestock. She was so proud of me because I was well behaved all day!

My mum knows I’m far from perfect but I’m perfect for her. She never gave up on me as she knew I had done nothing wrong. Thank you for saving me mum!

My mum and three other retired doggy mums, are in the process of starting a charity called ‘Hero Paws’ to help find suitable homes for four-legged heroes like me. Find and support us on Facebook.

This is a guest essay by Stikky Samantha James. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk 

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