It all happens too quickly when you’re a dog, one minute you’re the new pup on the block, passing SARDA assessment with flying colours (and a ‘best dog’ trophy – but don’t mention that to the Collie owners !) ; within a few years you’re an ‘experienced senior’ search dog and then, while your mind is still keen, you don’t get out on searches anymore. It is relaxing though to watch the young pups crashing about in the heather and peat hags and tearing up and down the crags from down in the Glen.
Having passed the 10 year milestone a few months back it was an easy decision to make when Coby came back from a full days searching in Glen Dye and slept from the minute the Landy picked us up in the Glen until he got home. Then he ate and went back to sleep until the next morning. Time to move over for younger dogs and enjoy his retirement.
Sometimes I’m surprised Coby has made it totally unscathed to retirement. He has a fascination for edges – not sure if it’s the scent carrying breeze wafting up the cliff or the view or just a complete absence of fear of the drop. It’s been an occasional worry throughout his career, while watching, like a parent, trying not to instil any unnecessary (?) fear into him. Moments stand out ; practicing personal abseils with AMRT on Carn Crom, everyone there that day will remember him plummet past me mid abseil when he decided hanging around at the top of the cliff was not for him. In his defence he had done a couple of abseils coupled to me at that exact spot. There was also that overhanging cornice on The Buachaille, front paws went clean through as he stuck his nose out in the breeze, it was then I found he could reverse using just his back legs, frantically ! The worst was probably the 7m freefall onto rocks off an undercut cliff near Dunnottar ; dogs are not like cats, they land how they fall off. Although only dazed I did remove him from the search for a thorough check over
Coby is adept at Grade 1 winter climbs, the Black Spout on Lochnagar stands out, as does Central Gully on the Dudh Loch, it’s there he learnt that his own ‘crampons’ only work in one direction, going down is not an option on his own. Upwards he’s happy to use cut steps when it gets too steep and icy.
His search and rescue career has taken him from wind swept sandy beaches (everyone who never had their goggles that day remembers it, a red eyed dog included), to local forests and parks, and into the mountains all over Scotland. Day or night, any weather – usually foul. From an hour search in a local park to 3 days epics in the Cairngorms, whether missing hillgoers, or distressed locals of all ages, he didn’t mind.
Throughout his career Coby never wanted to be left behind, don’t come to the house and leave a car or van door open, park up a Landy and he will get in it, must be a search. He’s one of the few search dogs that is actually straining at his harness to get into a noisy helicopter, an RAF crewman found that out when he told me to climb in first, he never held Coby tightly enough, that was one big leap into the Sea King !
The vast majority of callouts in a search dogs career do not result in a ‘find’, it’s about clearing out your designated search areas, confirming nobody is there and moving on, whittling down the likely areas with all resources available and focusing in to a find. The majority of Coby’s finds were in the summer in local areas for distressed persons, surprising really as his greatest strengths were in foul winter mountainous conditions, he just kept going and kept working, even when the human ‘resources’ were flagging and in need of a rest. He is a hot boy in sunny conditions and loves the lochs and streams between and during searches.
Very early on it was clear why Coby had been a ‘reject’ from Police and Prison Service, he’s a softy with folk. He was a great find himself for search work, coming from a working line and being a great ‘people dog’. Over his career he has also assisted in a great many talks to schools and various groups, he’s still a few lined up but he’s definitely more relaxed and less excited about them nowadays. The schools are the best, especially the demo’s out in the playing fields, that’s the bit that sticks in the youngsters minds too.
Coby had an adventurous life, big days out are a thing of the past but there are many shorter walks on which to stretch his legs. It’s now time to rest his paws and wait for a new pup to take on the tougher days out.