Teesdale & Weardale Search & Mountain Rescue Team (TWSMRT) based in County Durham now have two additional team members, search dog Sam and search dog Fern. The dogs and their handlers Karen Fisher from East Hedleyhope and Graeme White from Shildon have both successfully completed a two year training and assessment programme organised by The Search & Rescue Dog Association (SARDA).
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 individual's scent along the ground. In ideal conditions the dogs can pick up this scent up to 1/2km from the casualty.
Karen has been training Sam, a rescued dog from Battersea Dogs Home, since 2008 passing various assessments before spending 3 days in the Lake District in the middle of the coldest spell of weather for some years on their final assessment. Karen said "Training a Sarda dog is a full time challenge, yes you meet up twice a week locally to train and go on national courses, but a dog needs 24/7 consistent training. A dog is very ‘black and white’ in how they learn. For example it’s no good training a dog twenty minutes every night obedience covering elements such as walking to heel if the other 23 hours and 40 minutes of the day you let the dog to pull on a leader."
Karen became the first female handler in the North East to be graded as a "novice dog handler." Within 10 days of becoming operational Karen and Sam made their first find. The find produced mixed feelings for Karen, initally totally elation and pride as two years of hard work came together on a search for a missing person, but also immense sadness for the family as the missing person had deceased.
Fern a female springer spaniel owned by Graeme has been in training a little longer than Sam. Graeme said "The initial training includes obedience and a stock test involving putting the dogs in a pen of sheep where they must ignore the sheep. This can be difficult especially for young dogs. Farmers must be 100% confident that SARDA trained dogs will not disturb their flocks while searching. Our final assessment was physically and mentally demanding for both Fern and myself. We needed to search 6 large areas of the Lakeland Fells over 3 days, locate any casualties and be sure the area was clear when we had finished".
Senior SARDA Assessor, Des Toward, coordinator for the North East said "This is a great achievement for Karen and Graeme. Only 50% of dogs and handlers who set out on this training achieve search dog status. They now join a relatively small group of less than a dozen operational dogs available for searches in the North East of England".
Photograph attached - Graeme and Fern, Karen and Sam.
Teesdale & Weardale Search & Mountain Rescue Team are affiliated to Mountain Rescue England and Wales. We provide a Search and Rescue service throughout County Durham and beyond, primarily for the Police but also for the other emergency services. All Team members are volunteers and we rely on monies raised by ourselves as a registered charity to run the Team. Further details regarding our latest callouts and Team information can be found on our website www.twsmrt.org.uk
Notes For Editor Teesdale
& Weardale Search & Mountain Rescue Team are affiliated to the "Mountain
Rescue - England and Wales". We provide a Search and Rescue service throughout
County Durham and beyond primarily for the Police but also for the other emergency
services. All Team members are volunteers and we rely on monies raised by ourselves
as a registered charity to run the Team. Further details regarding our latest
callouts and Team information can be found on our website www.twsmrt.org.uk