Search & Rescue Dog Association Scotland News

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.




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!













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.



torrin in hat




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Distinguished Service Certificate


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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Training Weekend December 2015

This weekend marked the SARDA Scotland Christmas Meal Weekend and, unlike previous years, we decided to change location to the Isle of Skye – Carbost and the hospitality of the Old Inn.

On Friday night Storm Desmond arrived in the North West of Scotland with promises of 70 plus miles per hour wind and heavy rain. We were assured that, as the wind was coming from the South West, that the Skye bridge would remain open, despite the wind warning.

Various handlers who had managed to get the day off on Friday, managed most of the journey in daylight. In true tradition of a staff night out, there were ‘Secret Santa’ fun and games planned for Saturday night.  Our usual Santa was otherwise engaged, although I am not sure if he would be getting to wear his orange flying suit at work with all that wind about.


moody skies

Moody skies

With a very suitable replacement ‘Santa’ found – everything was in place. However, Desmond decided otherwise and those making it up on the Friday evening reported waterfalls running up hill, cars being pushed backwards by the wind and reduction in speed to twenty miles per hour. Others  were simply  unable to make it past floods, bridge closures and landslides.  Thankfully, the West coast of Scotland is well equipped to cope with such dilemmas,  and diversions (albeit lengthy ones), were in place for some, including depute Santa on Saturday. Others decided that the huge effort outweighed the risk and stayed at home. These were later put on standby for the Borders and Cumbria floods.

The Old Inn was a very  enjoyable place to be on Friday evening, as local people were playing music, and after a comfortable night’s sleep in the bunkhouse, Saturday arrived. There was no rush for handlers, assessors and ‘bodies’ to go out to the areas in the inclement conditions, but the dogs were keen and needs must.

After a few hard hours on the hill we all piled back to the bunkhouse – it was  great to get back to the warmth and the dogs were mega happy  as they had good fun in the cool wet conditions which meant really good conditions for scenting and long ‘strikes’ on the ‘bodies’. The last few training weekends have been remarkably windless.

Just when everyone had warmed up again, Depute Santa arrived and wanted to go out for some training with his young dog, and so a few hardy souls volunteered to go back out into the cold again.  Santa was very grateful, but managed to wiggle his way out of his Santa duties that evening, as so many presents were missing, he decided to defer the present giving until January!

The Old Inn Carbost,  came up trumps with a lovely meal followed by a raffle and great music from the Banana Session.  Various donations were also received from local businesses.  A big thank you to you all for your efforts.

The Old Inn is dog friendly and as such, we were asked if we would bring all the dogs inside for a photograph.  This was arranged for Sunday morning and the dogs did well to stay still for long enough.

Old Inn Carbost

Old Inn Carbost

This year SARDA Scotland celebrated 50 years, and Talisker Distillery made a generous contribution towards the event.  What better way to say thank you than to visit for another photo opportunity. The dogs were well behaved and happy to pose with the Distillery Manager.

Talisker Distillery

Talisker Distillery

Another good session ensued up the hill with some wind, some snow and some rainbows, before the journey home.

Stay safe out there and have a Very Happy Christmas.

By the way Dear Santa for Christmas I would like……   but I may get it in January!














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November Training Weekend 2015

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.

Daz and Cassie

Daz and Cassie




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SARDA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration



Sarda-volunteers.-660x496 (1)

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.




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October 2015 Training Weekend

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!








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