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OUTSTADING SUCCESS FOR THREE SEARCH & RESCUE DOGS
 
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30/05/20
The team were called out this afternoon by NEAS to assist with the extraction of a patient who fell off a waterfall at Low Force. Fortunately, the pat...
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Teesdale & Weardale Search & Rescue Team welcomed three new canine members to the Team this week. Misty owned by Des Toward from Cotherstone near Barnard Castle, Holly owned by Paul Fell from Blaydon and Bracken owned by Lee Ferry from Stanley became graded search dogs following an intensive assessment last weekend in the Lake District.

In order to train a search dog the handlers who are all Teesdale & Weardale Team members and therefore volunteers and the dogs join SARDA (Search and Rescue Dog Association). This is a national body which sets very high standards for its dogs and handlers to reach before they are allowed to search alongside mountain rescue teams.

The three dogs, all around two years old have been in training with their handlers for between 12 and 18 months. This training begins with basic obedience followed by games of hide and seek. During this time all of the dogs undergo a “stock test” to ensure they would not be interested in sheep or other farm animals while out searching. The hide and seek games develop into finding a person and then returning to the handler to indicate their success. This builds up from a 30 second game to a 1-2 hour search in all weather and at any time of the day or night. The difference between mountain rescue search dogs and other search dogs is that mountain dogs search for a human air scent where other dogs tend to track an individuals scent along the ground.

Des Toward has been involved with SARDA for many years and Misty is his third graded dog. “Everyone thinks that it would be easy to train another dog but Misty has probably been my biggest challenge, every dog is different. These are the first dogs Paul and Lee have trained and they have done tremendously well to get their dogs up to this standard in such a short length of time. My main advantage is that I know how to search with a dog where they have had to learn this skill from scratch”

Lee Ferry said “The assessment last weekend at Derwent Water in the Lake District was one of the most difficult and stressful things I have done in my life. We did six assessments over 3 days each lasting up to 1 ½ hours. Non of us slept well on the nights between the assessments”.

Paul Fell, echoing the sentiments of all three handlers, was keen to emphasise the help they had been given. “While we are out training with the dogs our families are the ones that suffer. Without their support these dogs would not be available to search for missing people. We also owe a great deal of thanks the people known as “bodies” who come out and lie hidden on a wet moor for hours on end in order for our dogs to find them during training exercises. It can’t be much fun but they keep coming back for more”.

Dave Bartles-Smith Teesdale & Weardale Team Leader said “They have all shown tremendous dedication to get to this standard. To put it in perspective we only had 4 graded search dogs available from Teams to cover the North East from the Scottish border to Yorkshire. Due to the efforts of Des, Lee and Paul and their dogs the Teesdale Team now has 50% of the search dogs available in the region. Search dogs have proved their worth on numerous occasions over the years and often found missing persons not only on the fells but in the semi urban areas surrounding our towns and villages. They will be a great asset not only to our Team but to all the rescue teams in the North East and beyond.

There are some photos below.

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Des with Misty, Lee with Bracken and Paul with Holly

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Lee with Bracken

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Lee with Bracken

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Des with Misty, Paul with Holly and Lee with Bracken

 

Des with Misty

Paul with Holly

Lee with Bracken

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SEARCH AND RESCUE THROUGHOUT COUNTY DURHAM

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