Dog handler PC Jamie Ward and Toby with YLP’s Natalie. Pictures: Tony Jones

They say a dog is a man’s best friend. 

And this is certainly the case for PC Jamie Ward – one of the police dog handlers for West Norfolk.

In fact, PC Ward is in charge of two dogs, Labrador Toby and German Shepherd Neeko.

I met the trio at Downham Market police station and the bond they have was easy to see.

“You can’t be afraid to get down and act like a fool with them and play, it’s not all work, work, work,” said PC Ward, who joined the force 17 years ago.

“If you treat them right, they will move heaven and Earth for you.”

PC Ward, 41, joined the dog unit seven years ago. He always wanted to work with dogs, but never owned one.

After going through a rigorous training programme, he was paired with his first dog, a German Shepherd called Breeze.

Breeze is now PC Ward’s family pet after being retired at the age of seven – the normal age for force dogs to stand down.

“Nine out of 10 dog handlers tend to keep their dogs. Or we get first say where they go if they are re-homed,” he said.

I  couldn’t resist stroking seven-year-old sniffer dog Toby, who was so energetic and gentle and recently helped officers to recover 130 wraps of what was thought to have been cocaine.

Neeko.

I must admit, I didn’t have quite the same enthusiasm about two-year-old Neeko – I couldn’t quite imagine him being so friendly!

Neeko is a general purpose dog, trained to carry out a variety of jobs such as locating missing people, finding crime scene evidence and protecting the handlers.

Last year, he won Police Dog of the Year at the Norfolk Safer Community Awards after locating and detaining three suspects hidden in undergrowth off the A47.

PC Ward said: “Dogs pick up the freshest scent – even after around three hours.”

Despite being able to detain the most hardened criminals, Neeko has also been trained not to bite in circumstances where he discovers someone who is vulnerable, such as an elderly or missing person.

As a dog handler, PC Ward can’t put his feet up for long after a shift.

On a day off, he will take his dogs out for three walks a day, each for around an hour, as well as adhering to strict force guidelines and training every day.

“It’s a big commitment. You have to be quite strong-willed as you work on your own a fair bit. And I have a very supportive family.

“I am backed-up by a great team and when your dog has found something in 20 minutes, which has saved officers searching for hours, it’s a nice feeling,” he said.

Follow the Norfolk and Suffolk’s Police Dog Unit on Twitter @ NSPoliceDogs

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