“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” - John 15:13, but so is the love of animals that offer their lives for their human colleague. Animals have formed part of the law enforcement environment in South African long before 1913 - before the police were officially formed under the name of the South African Police (SAP).
But with our four-legged (animals) partners, we’re so quick to forget them within a short space of time - that's even if we knew that animals served in the first place, let alone to acknowledge their passing on or their retirement from service. If they pass on, no other member besides their human partner would even know that the said four-legged partner ever served or was part of the police family. We honour our two-legged (human) partners, colleagues who have passed on in the line of duty, during an annual commemoration service in September at the SAPS memorial section at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where their names are engraved on a plaque. When a human colleague departs from the Service, their names are e-mailed throughout the country, acknowledging their existence. We always say, we are a family, a special “blue blooded” family. But how in our heart of hearts could we, and let’s be true to ourselves, forget and not even acknowledge the other part of our “blue blooded family” namely of our four-legged colleagues on? Those who had a service number, a name, whose details appeared on the duty list, worked in any weather conditions or environment, never had an excuse not to work, didn't commit a crime, didn’t get promotion, no salary, didn’t get any category leave (except when sick/injured), went in areas where some of our human colleagues were too scared to go, never sat in an office or asked for office hours job/posting, were capable of doing a task which would take a handful of human colleagues to do and in less time, need to be acknowledged. They are not biased, don’t discriminate and have no political affiliation, influence or pressure.
We can’t call ourselves a family, when we have forgotten or leave out four-legged (animals) partners/colleagues who served faithfully. So, as they don’t have a voice, let us be their voice - let’s call upon the higher authority, right up to the Minister of Police, the Honourable, Gen B Cele, as we know that he has the members of the SA Police Service very close to his heart and regards us as his family.
Let’s include all our members (humans and animals) - let us acknowledge everyone. So, when our four-legged colleagues “pass on” in the line of duty, let their names, service number and date of death be engraved on a plaque and be presented and acknowledged in the same way, on the same day and place as when we pay tribute to our human colleagues on Commemoration Day in September.
When our four-legged partners “retire” send a monthly e-mail out acknowledging their service.
As “members”, why can they not be awarded certain medals eg Centenary (100 years), even the ten-year service medal, which medal is handed over to their respective appointed handler?
SAPS dogs have also been deployed inter-nationally under the national and SAPS flags to assist at natural disaster scenes, due to their capabilities.
The “purple poppy” derived in 1918, around the same time as the “red poppy” which is for human beings. The purple poppy is for animals who have fought in wars/conflict over the course of time so that we will remember them - they have saved many a human life. We are at “war/in conflict” each day - a war against crime. Many incidents are known where our four-legged colleague have taken a bullet or a knife thrust to protect their human colleagues without thinking twice, so that their human partner may go home alive, back to their family.
A “War Horse Memorial Purple Poppy” charity has been established in the UK around 2018 to promote, acknowledge and make the people aware of the animal’s involvement in worldwide wars/conflicts over the decades. W/O (ret) Mike Allan, the “Pioneer of the Mounted Unit” (refer to the Letters’ Column published in Servamus: October 2019) has been duly appointed by the said Society. At this stage, he is the only one in South Africa to be their ambassador.
Officers who work with our four-legged colleagues (animals) especially the dogs in the field will tell you very quickly that the dog becomes your friend, partner, your protector. The human in turn becomes their love, their life, they stay faithful and true until the last beat of your heart. We owe it to them to be worthy of such devotion - so let’s also honour and remember all our “blue family” members, irrespective of whether they are two- or four-legged (dogs/horses, in the past even camels) … Let’s be a complete family.
Lt-Col (ret) C R P O’Farrell PCF