Closed roads in the Cairngorms meant that Saturday’s training venue was relocated. Handlers, dogs and the volunteer ‘bodies’(who give their time to act as ‘casualties’ for the dogs to find in training), all braved the wind, sleet and rain at lower altitudes to train for real searches which occur week in and week out.
The trainee and novice dogs are now focusing on refining their skills for the annual assessment course which will take place next month.
Sunday saw the roads open again and a chance for all to get up to the snowline. The ‘bodies’ were again out in the training search area, but thankfully this time were only being snowed and rained on intermittently. Meanwhile in another area, dogs were training to find both people and articles buried in the snow to simulate searches in avalanche situations.
Two members of SARDA Scotland attended the International Commission for Alpine Rescue’s Congress in October, which was held in Croatia. The event saw handlers from mountain rescue around the world come together to share and exchange their various methods on training and working dogs, to ultimately help those in need.
Congratulations to SARDA Scotland dog Cuillin; pictured here with her handler Tony Hanley. Cuillin was shortlisted for an award for the inaugural RSPCA and Daily Mirror Animal Hero Awards, which were held at the Langham Hotel in central London recently.
It’s Christmas - well, almost! We wish our supporters a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
This weekend we had our Christmas get together, bringing handlers together from Dumfries, Mid-Lothian, Fife, Perthshire, Grampian, Speyside, Inverness, Skye and Argyll. Our thanks to the Ben Nevis Inn at Achintee for great food and drink! We were also pleased that ‘Santa’ was able to join us. He brought a range of humorous presents for our hard working handlers.
Saturday started with a refresher briefing on avalanches and the use of dogs to support mountain rescue teams in these high pressure situations. Thanks to Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team for allowing us the use of their base. Thereafter, both Saturday and Sunday were spent training in good Lochaber weather – steady rain, low cloud and gusty winds! Glen Nevis has some challenging terrain, which the more experienced handlers enjoyed and those undergoing training learnt to cope with.
We were joined by a potential new recruit – Clova is a ten week old brown tri-coloured collie. Her owner, Rod from Tayside Mountain Rescue Team, is an experienced handler, having trained three dogs in his career (so far!). Clova coped well with the experience and we look forward to seeing more of her in future!
Kintail in November, with tops glistening white with the new season’s snow, set against clear blue skies, is a magical place.
We trained this month below the famous ridge line of the Five Sisters of Kintail, on National Trust for Scotland land. It was a testing time for the young dogs in training as they are now beginning to search larger areas. It is difficult for dog and handler to keep focussed to ensure that the ‘find sequence’ on finding the volunteer casualty is right every time. Patience, hard work, together with lots of encouragement is essential – this is the foundation for all the more advanced work to come.
We welcomed Paul from Kintail Mountain Rescue Team, who came along to see what search dog training is all about. It is fun, sociable and incredibly rewarding. So, if you are a member of a mountain rescue team and interested in search dogs, why not come along and meet everyone!
This weekend we remembered our long time friend and fellow dog handler, Stuart Ruffell. Along with members of the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team, we joined Stuart’s wife Irene, other family and many friends, to open a commemorative seating area at the Kings House Hotel in Glencoe. We hope that many of you enjoy it. It is such a beautiful spot overlooking Buachaille Etive Mor to sit and pass the time of day… or night!
Speaking of which, Autumn has arrived, the nights are closing in and so training weekends will be a little more chilly for the next few months. The dogs in training are starting to learn what it is like to search larger areas. Puppy school is a vital stage in the training process, and it is good to see the pups having fun, socialising and working hard, as well as their handlers. Mark from Tweed Valley team and new puppy Aonach are at the early stages of their training and are learning a lot about searching and about each other! More experienced handler Ken from Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team has trained two dogs previously, but each dog is different as Ken is finding out. It is also good to see Alasdair from Kintail with his dog Torrin, progressing and developing hill searching skills.
The past few weeks have seen qualified dogs in action on a range of searches, from low ground and coastal searches, to high and remote mountain searches. It has been a busy time with hard work and little play for the dogs. We therefore took time this weekend to give them and their handlers some fun and enjoyable searches so that dogs could find a willing ‘volunteer casualty’ and so receive their reward, which is to play their favourite game with their favourite toy. With winter just around the corner, we wish you and our supporters well. Stay safe out there!
The September training weekend took place in Braemar where another dog was added to our call out list. Congratulations to Stephen Austin and his dog Sky who have joined SARDA Scotland.
Welcome to new puppies Cranna and Aonach who joined us during the summer, and who are pictured below with their handlers Ken and Mark. We look forward to working with them.
Congratulations to SARDA Scotland dog Driesh, who has recently received an animal bravery award from the PDSA for his contribution in saving the lives of missing people.
The award was presented during a ceremony at RAF Leuchars. Driesh and his handler Rod Stoddart have worked together for the past six years. Rod is very proud of Driesh and is also pleased that his achievement has helped to highlight the work of SARDA Scotland.
Rod Stoddart and Driesh
Our training weekend took place from 11th -12th May at Glencoe. Earle from Tayside Mountain Rescue Team started to train his puppy, “Tay” in earnest. Tay is a tri-coloured Border Collie. All the girls love him! The dog, not Earle. Sorry Earle. It is a lot of effort training a dog for mountain rescue; but massively rewarding and we wish them well with their endeavours.
For other dogs in training, the weekend was a chance to review the progress that they have already made, and to put together a plan for their future needs. Glencoe is a great place to test them and to see how they handle the complexities of the terrain. The two dogs who qualified as “novices” from the annual assessment in March have already been pressed into service on call outs since then.
Our handlers were really pleased to be able to join Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team members in building a seating/viewing facility at the Kings House Hotel. This is in memory of our dear friend Stuart Ruffell, who died a few years ago. Stuart was a member and past team leader of the Tweed Valley Team, and also a SARDA dog handler. Stuart’s family were also there and a great time was had by all. The facility is not quite completed yet, but we hope that, in due course, visitors will enjoy the superb views from the spot as much as Stuart did.