An eventful November training weekend took place in Braemar, with snow on the hills and quite a bitter wind at times.
The Training Officer decided to take training to new heights on Sunday, when we all took to the woods to avoid the wind and rain, and volunteers were hidden in trees. It was interesting to watch the dogs working to find the scent in three dimensions!
Puppy School’ was wound up at the weekend, as all the young dogs in training to become novice search dogs are now searching fairly big areas. It is always a time of mixed emotions, as working with the puppies is so much fun – but it is at the same time very rewarding to see the dogs progress.
Clova – Now out of ‘puppy school’ and on the next stage of her journey to become a novice search dog.’
Congratulations go to Daz and Cassie, who were successful in gaining Novice Dog grade at the weekend. Well done to them both.
Hamish MacInnes, one of the founder members of S.A.R.D.A with friends canine and otherwise. Photograph courtesy of the Press and Journal.
S.A.R.D.A Scotland hosted the anniversary celebration of fifty years of the Search and Rescue Dog Association in Fort William last weekend.
It was a great privilege to welcome three of the founding members of the Search and Rescue Dog Association, along with past and present members from S.A.R.D.A Scotland, Southern Scotland, England, Lakes and the Isle of Man. Also present were some of our supporters, and volunteer ‘bodies’.
A great time was had by all; catching up with old friends and making new ones, and we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came along. Also a big thank you to the Alexandria Hotel who made us so welcome, and helped us to make the event run so smoothly.
October training took place in Dornie. The weather was unseasonably mild and also windless, which made it a lot harder for the dogs to pick up scent. The young dogs in training are progressing well, and it is interesting to see their handlers having to become fitter to keep up, as their dogs are given bigger areas to search!
Nell is a 7 year old Border Collie, originally from Skye. She was too friendly to work with sheep and so was donated to her handler, and qualified as a search and rescue dog in 2011. She is quite a small dog with a big personality, and we are particularly proud of her, as this week she has been chosen by voters to be the official safety dog for Neighbourhood Watch Scotland. Go to neighbourhoodwatchscotland.co.uk to see more details, and to read about Nevis and Jade, the lovely dogs from Police Scotland who were runners up.
September’s training weekend took place in Lochgoilhead. Unfortunately the weather was very wet, but the fact that dog handler Allison and her dog Felix were successful in attaining their novice dog grade cheered everyone up. Congratulations to them both. The weather also cleared up enough for a celebratory barbecue on Saturday evening. Thanks to Moira and Ken for their hospitality.
Aonach is a two year old Border Collie. He became a novice SARDA Scotland search dog when he passed his assessment in March 2015. His paws were barely through the front door after the assessment when he was called out on a search! Aonach comes from Alloa and is from a working background. He has lots of hobbies including football and he likes to sunbathe. He is very active, and accompanies his handler to work, and takes part in most of the other many outdoor activities that his human family are involved in. Between ourselves, he is actually a bit of a poser and loves to have his photo taken, and is particularly fond of ‘selfies’. He has so many that he really needs his own social media page. He is a very sociable little fellow and has many friends amongst the SARDA dogs and handlers.
Training this weekend took place in Braemar. It was the first time for months that the handlers from the West Coast had seen any sun, so they enjoyed that. We found a few midges too but they didn’t seem as fierce as their cousins in the West.
The young dogs are progressing at great speed and are very enthusiastic. In fact, it took a lot for their handlers to keep up with them as they ran up the hills. We moved the ‘bodies’ to the woods on Saturday afternoon which was something a little different for the young dogs and they all did very well. They will take a break now for their ‘summer’ holidays until September.
The new training year for S.A.R.D.A Scotland has begun, with the first training weekend after the annual course taking place on the Isle of Skye. Five dogs started their training and there was a lot of shouting and running around, and that was just from their handlers! We experienced extremes of weather with glorious sunshine and a beautiful sunset on Saturday and torrential horizontal rain on Sunday.
2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA). As part of SARDA Scotland’s celebrations we will meet some of the dog handlers who have contributed to saving lives in the Scottish mountains.
Bob Smith MBE
Bob joined SARDA in 1969. As one of the earliest of SARDA’s handlers, Bob and his German Shepherd Pushkin assisted police and mountain rescue teams all over Scotland. In 1974 Pushkin was the only rescue dog in Scotland to hold the coveted “A” certificate for mountain rescue. Bob later trained his second German Shepherd, Blue and in 1976 was delighted to win the Madras Trophy for the best dog and handler in training. In 1977 Bob and Blue represented SARDA at Crufts in a personality parade for working dogs.
Bob served as the call out officer and training officer for SARDA and retired from dog handling in 1985 when Blue passed away.
SARDA of course is only one part of the story. Bob joined the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team in 1969, the Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team in 1974 and served as team leader of Arrochar from 1983 to 1996. His work in outdoor education saw him introduce thousands of young people to the outdoors. Bob’s enormous contribution to mountain rescue over 37 years was recognised by the award of the Member of the British Empire (MBE).
At 82 Bob continues to enjoy the mountains and can often be found on the summits of the Arrochar Alps. Bob remains passionate about the role of the search dog within mountain rescue, and points out that the dogs today operate in the same environments he did in SARDA’s early years: open ground; snow and avalanche conditions and at night. Really not much has changed. “A well trained dog and a competent handler is equal to at least 20 men in a search”. Well we would never argue with that!
S.A.R.D.A Scotland held it’s fiftieth annual assessment course from 19th to 22nd March.
Congratulations to Alasdair and Torin, Ken and Cranna and Paul and Glash, who achieved full dog grade, and to Aonach and Mark who achieved novice dog grade. Jonah and Mac also achieved novice dog grade and were awarded the Madras Trophy for the best novice dog on the course.
The weather was kind to us and, rather unusually, the volunteer ‘bodies’ were shedding layers of clothing as they went out to their areas for the day, rather than adding on layers as they normally need to do. Our equipment officer even had requests for sunscreen! Thank you to the volunteers who helped to make the course a success.
Rescue 137 Sea King helicopter from Lossiemouth came in to assist us with helicopter familiarisation, before having to leave on an urgent request for assistance. It was a sad occasion, as this will be the final time that we train with this helicopter before it is taken out of service. We would like to thank the RAF for all their assistance over the past years.
We were also very honoured to have two of our founding members visiting us at the course. Our Honorary President Hamish MacInnes spent time with us on Saturday and Kenny MacKenzie presented the certificates on Sunday. Thank you very much to them both.
Thanks also go to Brian and Ken from SARDA England who were our outside assessors for the weekend.
Finally, we would like to thank the owners and staff of the Kings House Hotel who, as always, looked after us all so well.
We will now take a break for April before our training year begins again in May.