Christmas day means relaxation and celebrations for many, but not all. 25 December will be a normal working day for soldiers at 1st Military Working Dog Regiment, North Luffenham.
Starting at 6.30am, long before most people are thinking about opening presents, a duty soldier from each of the Regiment’s three operational squadrons will feed all the military working dogs, just like they do every morning.
"Animals require care all year round and we have a great team of military and civilian staff who accept working over holiday periods as part of their work. Together they ensure that the welfare of our military working dogs is always the top priority, even on Christmas day.” Lieutenant Colonel Kay Hanson, Commanding Officer 1st Military Working Dog Regiment
Fellow soldiers, joined by six civilian kennel hands who have also volunteered to work, will then arrive at 8am to start the day which will include walking and exercising the military working dogs.
Corporal Spencer will be part of the volunteer 15-person team from 102 Military Working Dog Squadron working on Christmas Day. He said: “We all take turns to work the Christmas period. It’s a normal routine. The duty handlers will start at 6.30am to feed the dogs, then we have to walk them all and clean the kennels.
“Regardless of the time of year, we have to ensure our dogs are fed and exercised. Their welfare comes first. It’s not like a vehicle where you can switch off the engine and pull the shutters down.”
The team will be able to finish for Christmas lunch but there will be no festive glass of wine with their turkey. The exercise routine continues in the afternoon and the dogs are then returned to the kennels for their feed and to settle down for the night.
A final check will be made late in the evening and a duty military working dog handler will remain on call all night.
Vehicle Search Dog Handler, Private Clayton who has also volunteered to work over Christmas and New Year explained: “It’s my first Christmas away from home. I haven’t worked a Christmas before, and we needed volunteers. I didn’t want people to end up having to work who had worked a previous Christmas, so I put myself forward.”
Private Clayton normally works with vehicle search dog Tina. She said: “Tina’s a very stubborn Springer Spaniel and quite a sassy character. If a dog annoys her, she will have a go at it. She’s not bothered about food and doesn’t like being stroked. She’s a really nice dog though.”
Private Harrison has also volunteered to work. He said: “My turn was coming up to work Christmas, so I decided to volunteer. It doesn’t bother me. It’s part of the job.
“I haven’t got any children at the minute, so by volunteering, those with young children can enjoy the day with their families.”
“We’ll make sure there is a festive feel. We’ll all come together, we’ll have Christmas jumpers and Christmas dinner and we’ve done a Secret Santa.”
Each of the three Squadrons will have a volunteer team of 13 soldiers and two civilian kennel hands. A veterinary team of Veterinary Officers and military Veterinary Technicians will also be on call ready to respond to any emergencies if required.