Search & Rescue Dog Association Scotland News

Happy New Year

Well it is almost time to say goodbye to 2017.  It has been a busy year for S.A.R.D.A Scotland. As well as training our own dogs we have also been training dogs for  use on the Scottish Ski Areas for the British Association of Ski Patrollers, (BASP).  Kate with her dog Bodie and Will with his dog Jura, have worked hard with their training alongside us throughout the year.









Sadly, we have said goodbye to some of our old dogs this year, but as is often the case we have also said hello to some new puppies. As always, we look forward to helping them on their journey to become search and rescue dogs.

We were very sad to hear of the recent passing of Catherine MacLeod.  Catherine was instrumental in the founding of the association over fifty years ago, and we were very privileged that she came along to our fiftieth anniversary celebration, and also to our annual course at the Kings House Hotel in March 2016.  We spent a few happy evenings with Catherine hearing her stories about the early days of SARDA and of her fascinating life. She was a very inspiring lady and our thoughts are with Catherine’s family and friends at this sad time. 


As always, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us throughout the year. Thank you to Burns Pet Nutrition, and to the Order of St John for their continued support. Also to Dog Robes Ltd who have supplied us with cosy dog robes  which are  especially embroidered with the SARDA logo. Very smart. Thank you also as always to Steve Rowe for making sure that our website keeps on working, and to all the many people who raise funds for us in so many different ways,  and without whom we would not be able to continue our work. As always a big thank you to our volunteer ‘casualties’  who lie out on the hill for us in all weathers.

It only remains to wish you all a very happy and healthy new year.











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Two Sleeps To Go!

Well the big day is almost here, and we would like to take this opportunity to wish all our friends and supporters a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.   

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Congratulations to Mark and Snuz

Many congratulations to SARDA Scotland dog handler Mark and volunteer Snuz who were recently married. Also well done to Aonach who carried out his role of ring bearer very professionally.

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Congratulations Innes and Glen

Our congratulations go to Innes and Glen for passing their novice dog assessment. Well done both of you.




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Training on Cairngorm 12 – 14 May 2017

May training weekend  saw dogs and handlers training on and around Cairngorm. Young dogs in training spent a fine spring day on Cairngorm whilst fully trained dogs worked on woodland searches in Glen More. We welcomed a number of new dogs and handlers to training. Kate brought Bodie, a Springer Spaniel x Border Collie, and Will brought Jura, a Border Collie. Kate and Will are aspirant dog handlers and are from the British Association of Ski Patrollers. It was all new for them and we hope they enjoyed the weekend. They’ll be back at next training, so you should hear more about them in due course. Also new at the training weekend was Beck. She’s Fiona’s new puppy, a 16 week old Border Collie. Fiona is a qualified dog handler and so already has an older dog. It’s great to see current handlers getting a new pup to take over from the older dog in time.
On Saturday we spent the afternoon at Bristows’ base at Inverness airport. Bristows operate the Search & Rescue helicopters providing a vital service for Mountain Rescue Teams. We went through the essential aircraft familiarisation briefing and also caught up on the latest winching techniques and protocols. Many thanks to Bristows for going out of their way to make us welcome and spending time with our handlers to ensure they got what they needed from the training.
As the weather improves enjoy the mountains and stay safe out there.
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Annual Course 2017

Well that is the annual  course over for another year.  Well done to Tom and Meagaidh for gaining full dog status.  A big thank you to the Old Inn at Carbost on Skye for making us feel so welcome and for looking after us so well.  Thank you to Burns Pet Nutrition for their continued support and to Martin and Scott for driving all the way up to see us!  To our external assessors, Nick and Tony from SARDA England, and Chris from Lake District Mountain Search Dogs.  As always thanks to our volunteers who act as ‘casualties’ for the dogs to find. Three days lying in the rain is a big ask but they were still smiling at the end.  Ironically the sun came out just as we were all leaving! Thank you also  to Pete and Allison (former SARDA Scotland Training Officer and Treasurer) who announced that they were standing down after several years in their  posts. We will all  take a break now and training will recommence in May.



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Annual Course Time Again

Well it is annual course time again and this year the venue will be Skye. Good Luck to  Bob, Storm, Meagaidh and Glen and the same to their handlers of course!


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March Training Weekend




The last training weekend before our annual assessment course took place at the weekend in Glencoe. The young dogs were all  very enthusiastic  and the handlers had to work hard to keep up with them! Our volunteer ‘bodies’ were happy that the weather was kind and they even got a bit of sunbathing in on Sunday!



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Stuart Ashton

It is with great sadness that we heard of the untimely passing of Stuart Ashton. Not only was he a member of Skye Mountain Rescue Team, but was an avid supporter of SARDA Scotland. Stuart spent time with local handlers Tony and Jonah acting as a body – thinking nothing of lying about in bogs and cliffs so that the dogs were tested to their full ability, but he also attended SARDA Scotland training weekends where, along with other bodies he would remain in place – often finding the most awkward places and positions which were great for both dogs and handlers until the training was finished. Always a smile on his face and a chuckle when the handlers finally arrived. He loved that few minutes of play with the dogs while waiting for the handlers to catch their breath. Stuart and Tania also raised funds at their Bed and Breakfast for SARDA Scotland for which we will be forever grateful.

Stuart left us doing something he committed his life to and those who had the pleasure of working, meeting or knowing him, including all the dogs will know he will be sorely missed. It was fitting that Jonah and his dog Mack helped bring him home.

Stuart you will never be forgotten and  if there is an after life we are sure that you will be watching over us all, chuckling when someone finds a good hiding place and smiling when a new dog passes its assessment.

Sleep peacefully. You will always have a space in our hearts. We are all thinking of Tania and the family he leaves behind. You were part of our family and we will miss you.

Thank you

SARDA Scotland


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Coby Hangs Up His Boots



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.

GC search Sputan Dearg

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