Wimbledon 2014: Dylan the bomb-sniffing labrador bows out after eight years

He's one of the longest-serving police dogs at Wimbledon, and has 27 offspring in the family trade

Rufus the hawk, the scourge of the Wimbledon pigeon population, is a familiar sight in the skies around SW19. But for the past eight years the Championships has also relied upon the services of another lesser-known animal whose work is far more important to its success.

His name is Dylan, a black labrador who sniffs out bombs. One of the longest-serving police dogs in the history of the tournament – and the most fertile, with no fewer than 27 offspring to his name – he finally retired today after eight consecutive Championships.

Bred by Scotland Yard's Explosives Search Dogs unit, which is used by Buckingham Palace, the House of Commons and other high security sites in London to detect potentially lethal devices, since the age of 10 months he has barely left the sight of his handler Sergeant Martin Proctor, a softly-spoken Welshman who also retired today at the age of 54.

“He’s always been a police dog,” Sgt Proctor told The Independent, as Dylan sat docile at his feet during a break in his shift. “I got him at about 10 months old, and was told he probably wouldn’t make it because they didn’t think he was good enough. But he proved them all wrong and he’s actually been exceptional – he’s very, very good at what he does.”

Like Rufus, Dylan’s day begins in the early hours of the morning, but his work is far less ostentatious. He and Sgt Proctor – the only police officer permitted to work with him – scout the rooms and corridors of the All England Club sniffing out danger well before the gates open and the crowds arrive. Dylan finds it difficult to work while spectators lavish him with attention, but there are also other distractions around the grounds.

“A lot of the labradors you’ll see working here are his offspring,” says Sgt Proctor. “That’s why he smiles a lot, because he’s got 27 kids out there somewhere. Not all of them are based here at the same time; a lot of them are customs dogs now, but he’s certainly been quite successful.”

Dylan is also popular among the players, many of whom recognise him immediately and have given him signed balls to play with while off-duty. “The ones who make the biggest fuss are those from abroad who’ve got dogs and miss them because they’ve left them at home,” says Sgt Proctor.

The pair are retiring at the end of the first week rather than the second due to Sgt Proctor’s notice period, which runs out at the end of June. “I wanted specifically to do Wimbledon – this is probably our favourite event, so it’s a nice one to finish on. It’s my favourite place to work,” he says.

“Effectively, I spend more time with him than my family, because I work with him and he comes home with me as well. We’ve spent a lot of time together – that’s why our bond is unique. I put a lot of faith in this guy, a lot of trust, because of what he’s searching for.”

Sgt Proctor is not allowed to say exactly how many police dogs work at Wimbledon or go into the details of their shift patterns for security reasons, but he says there are “quite a few” spaniels and labradors in service around the grounds. None of them, however, are searching for drugs – this is Wimbledon, after all.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried