Above and beyond the call of duty
by Northern Life
Theo is the best partner Gareth Greaves has ever had – in over seven years of active duty with Greater Manchester Police Theo has located, tracked and detained suspects leading to more than 200 arrests. He has also saved Gareth’s life on more than one occasion, as well as the lives of countless others, suffering from burns, broken ribs and an amputated tail in the process. Theo was a finalist in The Sun’s Hero Dog Awards 2018. My Hero Theo is the heartwarming story of one man and his heroic dog, a bond that sees them go above and beyond the calls of active duty to keep each other safe. It also highlights the incredibly important role dogs play within the police force, at a time when key workers need our support the most. Northern Life’s Emily Smith caught up with Gareth to discover why a dog really is man’s best friend.
This truly is the story of a lifetime. My Hero Theo is the tale, pardon the pun, of how far the relationship between a man and his dog can go. Gareth Greaves and his German shepherd Theo worked on the dog handling unit for just over seven years, time and time again proving that a dog really is man’s best friend.
Gareth’s memoir is emotionally raw and is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat with the sheer amount of action the duo experienced working together. Not only does the book take you behind the scenes of the Greater Manchester Police Unit, Gareth also takes you with him through the ups and downs of his personal life. This memoir will make you laugh, cry, and make you want to cuddle your pets even more.
The memoir is powerful in that it has moments that all readers can relate to. Gareth is clear in the book about how he is an immense dog lover and how incredibly proud he is of Theo. Gareth told me, “Not only do they keep people of Greater Manchester safe, as Theo did, they then come home, look after their families and become more than just a piece of kit. He’s my world. It was only a couple of months ago that my current serving police dog Kai, tore his thigh off. So that meant ten days of sleeping on the kitchen floor and making sure he was okay. As the book mentions, I spent nights in the kennel with Theo. There’s a little piece in the book where I say you can call me anything you want, all the names under the sun but if you call my do, I’m going to get very upset. They’re a massive part of our lives.’
Having written the book, I asked Gareth how the whole experience was, “I was deeply honoured to be asked to do the book, I didn’t realise just how famous Theo was and how much it hit the media. For me he was just doing his job but there was a time where I honestly believed he was the most successful police dog in the country, he was unstoppable.” When he was approached by Harper Collins to pen a book, he initially thought that his co-workers were winding him up! And after receiving the first few copies hot off the press, the first person to receive one was his daughter, Eryn. He told me, “Aw it was great. I promised my little girl Eryn the first copy and she has it, she was so excited. Having it physically in your hands is very emotional and it still hasn’t quite sunk in.”
Gareth takes us on a refreshingly truthful and vulnerable journey throughout the book, sharing his most difficult times. I wanted to ask him if he found revisiting these moments therapeutic in anyway, “Absolutely it was like a huge counselling session. I needed to get everything out and it made me realise what I’d been bottling. I’m hoping it inspires people to read and relate to it. I struggle with my mental health and doing what I did 365 days a year was difficult. I found that as police officers we can be particularly good at dealing with other people’s problems but when it comes to our own, we can be a bit rubbish. He continued to say how some of the parts within the book were especially hard to revisit, “It was hard going over the book. Especially when Eryn was poorly, it was possibly the most difficult time part of my life. And unfortunately, it caused
the unravelling of my marriage, it is difficult, and you can’t go back and change the past. But Theo was here through all that and he was my North.
Hearing the tip toe of dog paws down the phone, I asked Gareth how the lovely Theo was doing and if he was enjoying his well-earned retirement. Gareth laughed, “He’s great! He’s on his little bed next me. He loves his little walks around the parks, I try to take him new places to stimulate him. Some days if I get called into work on a body search with Sevvy, I can be out of the house for nearly 13 hours. So, on my days off we try take him places like the beach or little markets. He’s just enjoying the world now, he’s very mellow nowadays, he’s not the ferocious beast he once was. But with that said, the minute he sees a police van he tries to get in it, he’d go back to work tomorrow.”
Gareth talks about the bond they share in his book and how throughout their career the two of them were somewhat psychopathically linked. I asked Gareth if it was still strange even years on, not having Theo by his side on shift…
“It’s really difficult. Even the logistics of it, I have to go to work now out of uniform and sneak out of the house because if he sees me in my uniform, he thinks he’s coming to work with me! You feel awful you feel like you’re abandoning him. I’ve got Kai now who’s going to be a great police dog, but you’ve got to understand that I went from having something that I could completely rely on. So, it’s extremely hard trying to adapt and get my head round the fact that I’m never going to work Theo again.”
I asked Gareth what his favourite part of the job was… “One of the greatest things about working with dogs is that they are immediately capable of getting excited over anything. You can be having a rubbish day and they can immediately light up your life by doing the most ridiculous thing. Whether that’s falling out of the van or eating your dinner. I go to work every day with man’s best friend, I’m so lucky. If you’re going to put it in simple terms, I’m a 40-year-old man who gets to spend all day with dogs and play the biggest game of hide and seek ever!”