Longton police dog Echo sniffed out children at risk after drink driver's crash
THEY say a dog is a man's best friend – and that's certainly the case for dedicated PC Dave Smith and his trusty pooch, Echo.
The pair have been working together in Staffordshire Police's Dog Support Unit for the past year.
Now the duo have been named as runners-up in the national ACPO Police Dog Team Operational or Humanitarian Action of the Year Awards.
They took second place out of 17 nationwide nominees after being put forward for their exceptional team work during an incident in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
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Dog handler PC Smith and his canine companion were recognised for their good work in dealing with an incident in October which saw children's lives put at risk.
A drunken man had assaulted his partner and driven off with their two young children. A short while later the car was found abandoned and damaged after hitting a tree – but the man and his children were nowhere to be found.
After being told a police helicopter was on its way, 43-year-old PC Smith instructed Echo to track the trio and they set off across fields, over barbed wire fencing and along a water-filled ditch. The three-year-old German Shepherd followed his nose along a line of trees for several hundred yards before sniffing out the man and his children.
The uninjured trio were then returned to safety.
PC Smith, of Mow Cop, who is based at Longton police station, said: "It was a difficult one. They had disappeared into large open countryside, it was a cold night and without Echo we may not have got the result we did.
"I like to think we are a good team. Echo lives with me at home so not only do we work together nine hours a day, we are together while we are off-duty too.
"He is a part of my home life, so we have a really close bond. I am very proud of him."
PC Smith, who has been working for the force for 25 years, added: "I am honoured to receive this award. Echo is a young dog but he is already doing so well.
"I'm looking forward to many more successful years working alongside Echo."
The pair will be recognised for their efforts at a ceremony at the end of March where PC Smith will receive a divisional commanders commendation.
Inspector Chris Dawson said: "This incident clearly displays that both officer and dog work very well under pressure.
"Together, they are a focused and determined team. They didn't show any hesitation in setting off over challenging terrain, with various hiding places, to locate the children and ensure their safety.
"PC Smith is an experienced officer and has attended a variety of incidents over the years, most recently paired with Echo. I'm very pleased they have received recognition for their combined skills which are an absolute attribute to the effectiveness of this team."