Honoring Bob and Shirley Spreadbury and their grand-dog, Atar

Honoring Bob and Shirley Spreadbury and their grand-dog, Atar

NED’S WISH is Honored to celebrate the lives of Bob and Shirley Spreadbury with this memoir and tribute written by their son Brian.

The RCMP’s Police Dog Service Training Centre was established just southeast of Innisfail, Alberta in 1965, at about the same time that the Spreadbury family purchased a dilapidated cottage at Sylvan Lake that they lovingly restored and turned into the family cabin. The Spreadbury clans’ first exposure to working dogs came at the Red Deer Fair back in the days when the fairgrounds were downtown near the Red Deer River, long before the fairgrounds were moved to the site of the present-day Westerner Park. There the family would regularly meet and chat with new handlers and their dogs who were training and growing accustomed to working together in large crowds. Driving from Calgary to “the Lake” over the decades always resulted in all eyes looking east to see if any dogs could be seen running the obstacle course at the Innisfail training facility.

Bob and Shirley Spreadbury’s two boys both eventually ended up doing resource conservation-related law enforcement, Ken as an Alberta park ranger and conservation officer, and Brian as a Depot-trained national park warden and resource management officer. Training and working alongside numerous general duty police dogs from both the national parks and the RCMP in mountain environments became a regular part of their day-to-day duties. Acting as quarry, setting tracks, hiding articles, setting up what at times were elaborate training scenarios for multiple dog teams, and working alongside the dogs and their handlers during search and rescue incidents, including numerous avalanche recoveries, was a regular occurrence.

Brian and his wife Patti adopted a retired German Shepherd named Atar following the dog’s career in the mountain parks. Brian had worked closely with the dog, even acting as a “pseudo-handler” at one point, and the dog’s K9 handler knew Atar was going to a good home. Originally brought over as a pup from the Eastern Bloc, Atar was trained at the kennels in Innisfail and started his career in northern Saskatchewan. His original police handler was not a good fit with Atar so the dog went back to kennels to be partnered with another handler. The RCMP’s loss was definitely the mountain parks’ gain, and Atar (which translates to “invisible fire”) had a stellar career in the mountain parks from 2006 through 2011.

Atar retired in March 2011 and spent the rest of his days with Brian and Patti. Atar took about 6 months to figure out he was retired, but once he did he took to retirement with gusto. Brian’s parents took care of Atar when Brian and Patti were traveling, and to say that Bob and Shirley were proud of their “grandpuppy” was an understatement.

Retired working dogs can require significant veterinarian care as they age, and Atar was no exception. Atar was well taken care of and no expense was spared to give him the quality of life he deserved during his retirement, right to the very end.

On behalf of the late Bob and Shirley Spreadbury, and in memory of Atar and the numerous other K9s their sons worked with, a significant donation has been made to Ned’s Wish to ensure that those retired working dogs who have put it all “on the line” during their careers continue to receive the medical attention they need during their much-deserved retirements.