Search & Rescue Dog Association Scotland News

June Training Weekend Ballachulish

The training weekend was eventful before it even really started with SARDA Scotland search and rescue dog Mac and his handler Jonah locating a missing person on Skye on Friday. Well done to them both.

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We arrived at Ballachulish to a welcoming committee of midges on Friday but thankfully a breeze kept them away for the rest of the weekend and as an added bonus, and despite threatening clouds overhead, the weather remained dry and warm.

We were very happy on Sunday morning to learn that  Meagaidh, pictured below with her handler Tom, has achieved novice dog status, and will now be added to the call-out list. Congratulations to them both! tom and Meagaidh

The young dogs continue to progress well and the two puppies in ‘Puppy School’ are growing very quickly!  The volunteers who help to train the young dogs get plenty of exercise trying to keep up with them,  as do their handlers. When the dogs begin to search larger areas, their handlers have to attempt to keep up with them!

 

 

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Meet Felix and Midge

The following article was written by  Police Constable (Division Events Planner) and SARDA dog handler Alison Todd. It was originally published in the ‘On The Beat feature’ in the  Evening Express, and is reproduced with kind permission.

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When I am not dealing with shows, games, events and visits by VIP’s, which encompass various licensing, safety and staffing requirements, I am part of the Police (Scotland) Mountain Rescue Team.

I have been a member of the Search and Rescue Dog Association Scotland for 10 years. So what does this mean when I am not doing my daytime job? Being a member of the mountain rescue team means that I can be deployed 24/7 in the North East of Scotland and, with the added skills of being a search dog handler, I can be called out throughout Scotland. I currently have two qualified search and rescue dogs that are trained to search for human scent. They can be deployed to locate missing persons or for articles,  or people buried in avalanches. Human scent is carried by the wind and we all cast it off in very large amounts.  When the dogs find the scent, they work towards its concentration and bark to lead me to where the person is.

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The older search dog Midge was involved in searching for an overdue climber in Lochnagar. Despite the underfoot conditions, heavy snow and high risk of avalanche, our group made its way to a safe area of the Corrie. As we arrived, Midge indicated that there was something there,  and the person was found safe and well sheltering inside a large first aid box.  Midge was also successful in locating a vulnerable missing lady in the Deeside area who had wandered away from secure accommodation.

 

Felix is my younger new recruit, and soon after passing his first assessment and going on the call-out list, he was deployed to search for someone missing who had been taking part in mountain sports in the Highlands area along with other dogs.  Even though he had only just passed his training course, he understood the role he had to perform.

It takes two years of intensive training to qualify the dogs to full status. This involves a lot of work in my own time. During training we use friends and family members to act as casualties by hiding in the hills, up trees and underneath snow. Collie dogs are the best breed to use as they have a great work/play drive and only have to be shown things once or twice.

Felix has recently learned how to find people buried in the snow and has picked up the idea very quickly. I just wonder if my garden is going to suffer the same mining work, but then there isn’t a body buried under the flowerbeds – not that I know of!

Felix On The Go

 

The dogs stay at home with me and, when they are not out on searches, they are my pets. But as soon as they hear the phone ringing, especially in the middle of the night, they are up and standing at the front door ready to go, They go into work mode when the harness goes on and after a successful find they are rewarded with a squeaking toy. When search duties are over I return to my other daytime job while the dogs dream of squeaky toys and sleep with a full belly!

 

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May Training Weekend Glen Shiel

There were five fewer dogs and handlers at the May training weekend, as they were deployed to assist in the search for a missing person in the Glen Coe area on Saturday and Sunday.  The rest who attended had a productive weekend, with the  dogs getting back  into the swing of things after a break during  April.  The volunteers were pleased that two new dogs arrived for ‘Puppy School’ with Hamish (or Hammy as he is known), and Glen,  doing very well with their first ever SARDA training sessions.

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The weekend was warm, with a slight breeze which kept away the midges, and pleased everyone. Let us hope that we are as lucky with the rest of our training weekends throughout the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A big thank you to BOGS

A big thank you to BOGS who have kindly supported SARDA Scotland by supplying  us with thermal wellingtons. We look forward to having warm dry feet!  Many thanks again to them.

 

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Annual Course 2016

DSCN0300The S.A.R.D.A Scotland Annual Course is now over for another year. Congratulations to Mark and Aonach and Jonah and Mack who achieved full dog status. We were very honoured to have one of the founder members of the Search and Rescue Dog Association, Dr Catherine MacLeod  present at the course. Catherine is pictured below presenting Mark and Jonah with their certificates.   It was fascinating to hear Catherine’s stories of searches in the early days of S.A.R.D.A and we would like to  thank her for taking the time to come along to the course.

 

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Thank you also to  Martin and Beth from  Burns Pet Nutrition  who came along to see what we were up to, and brought some dog food with them!

 

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As always we are very grateful to the staff at the Kings House Hotel who never fail to make us feel so welcome and go out of their way to help us.

We were sorry to say goodbye to dog handler Graeme  Dalby who has retired from S.A.R.D.A Scotland after 27 years. His dry sense of humour will  be greatly missed and we wish him well for the future.

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S.A.R.D.A Scotland Annual Assessment Course 2016

S.A.R.D.A Scotland’s Annual Assessment Course takes place from Thursday 17th March until Sunday 20th March and will take place at the King’s House, Glen Coe.  The dogs and handlers who are up for assessment will be put through their paces, undertaking wilderness searches.  The handlers will also be given the opportunity to see how their dogs react to pyrotechnics, and the dogs will also be given a stock test.  This weekend is the culmination of many months of hard work. Good Luck to everyone being assessed.

 

 

 

 

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Training February 2016

torrin in snowThe second of our  winter  training weekends in the Cairngorms  took place on the 12th to 14th February. Conditions on Saturday were challenging, with strong winds taking  the wind chill down to minus nineteen degrees at times. ‘Bodies’ and handlers were finding themselves in snow up to their waists at times, but the dogs were much better at avoiding the holes!

On  Sunday, we managed to deliberately bury one of our volunteer ‘bodies’ in the snow, which gave all our dogs and handlers the chance to sharpen up on their avalanche skills. We would like to thank our volunteers for lying out in such conditions; it was hard to tell who was who as they had so many layers of clothing and headgear on!

With the annual assessment course looming large on the horizon, most of the training is geared to the seven dogs and handlers that are hoping to be accepted for assessment in March.

 

 

 

 

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Happy New Year!

Well 2016 is here and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped to support us during the past year and to those who helped us to celebrate SARDA’s 50th Anniversary.  A Very Happy New Year to everyone.

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Merry Christmas

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from SARDA Scotland dogs and handlers. Stay safe out there over the holidays.

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Distinguished Service Certificate

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S.A.R.D.A Scotland dog handler Pete Crichton pictured above, has recently been awarded a Distinguished Service Certificate for services to mountain rescue from the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland.

Pete first joined the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team in 1980 and later joined the Torridon team in 1990 after relocating to Wester Ross.  For the past twenty six years, Pete has been a member of the Search and Rescue Dog Association Scotland, and was training officer for the association from 2004 until 2012.  After a two year break he took over the role of training officer again in 2014 and currently holds the post.

There have been a few near misses and harrowing moments during the past thirty five years.  Dealing with the aftermath of the Lockerbie air disaster was particularly traumatic.  But there have also been many more enjoyable moments and Pete particularly likes the challenge of training young dogs to become full search and rescue dogs.  Pete also acts as an ‘external assessor’ for the other SARDA Associations.

There is a strong suspicion amongst the other dog handlers that Pete secretly relishes his other role as Call-Out Coordinator  for the organization and that he enjoys calling handlers in the wee small hours to drag them out of their beds.  He certainly seems rather gleeful when a new handler joins the ranks, and is in possession of every contact number they possess within minutes!  There have been times though, when Pete has organized a search throughout the night and then attended a different incident himself.

Congratulations to you Pete for a well- deserved award.

 

 

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