‘The best police horse this force ever had’: tributes paid to serving Clydesdale mare who died aged 14

  • Tributes have been paid to a “courageous and gentle” serving police horse, described by her human colleagues as the “best this force has ever had”.

    Penelope, the first mare recruited to serve with Northumbria Police, died this month aged 14 following a “short illness”.

    The 16.3hh Clydesdale joined the mounted section in 2019 and was formally named Bella.

    “Penelope was without doubt the best police horse this force has ever had,” said Sergeant Stu Coates of Northumbria Police’s mounted section.

    “She was brave, bold and courageous but patient and gentle when needed. While she was known for falling asleep on duty, she was always considered the leader of the section.

    “When required, Penelope used to go in head first to get the job done, giving confidence to other horses.

    “Her career highlights included policing various large-scale protests, attending countless football matches across the country, and proudly leading last year’s Remembrance Sunday parade in Sunderland. She was also named ‘Animal of the Year’ at the force’s annual Pride in Policing Awards in 2021.

    “Penelope really was one in a million and will be sadly missed by everyone.”

    Connections are also mourning retired police dog Russell, who died aged 14 in the same week. The cocker spaniel served as an operational search dog for eight years alongside his “best friend and handler”, Sergeant Gav College. After he retired from operational duties, Russell was not quite ready to hang up his harness and so returned to work in 2018 as the force’s first community support dog, serving alongside Sergeant Sally College.

    He officially retired from that role in 2020, remaining with the Colleges as their ”much-loved pet”.
    “Russell was the most gentle-natured and loving dog – but also a manic search machine when in work mode, and he loved a tennis ball!” said Sergeant Sally College.

    “A highlight for me during his role as a community engagement dog was when Russell visited a dementia café where a gentleman took a shine to him, stroking him and smiling.

    “His wife started to cry, saying it was the first time in two years that her husband, who had severe dementia, had shown any emotion and she was going to buy a dog!”

    She added: “Russell was so switched on to people’s emotions and feelings. He knew instinctively if someone was not well or was having trouble reaching him – if this was the case, he would gently put his paws out to help them.

    “It’s fair to say that Russell was a unique character who touched the lives of so many people during his life – we will miss him so very much.”

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