CVSRT Search Dogs
Search dogs have been a part of CVSRT since 1977 and over the years we have seen 15 dogs and 10 handlers assisting the team on searches.
Currently, we are very fortunate to have four air scenting search dogs and handlers within the team. All of the dogs and handlers are SARDA graded and on-call and ready to deploy within our own operational area, but also further afield when required.
Dog handlers are firstly Mountain Rescue team members but they provide an additional and valuable resource for the team when it comes to searching for missing persons. There are currently four graded, search dogs/handlers within CVSRT, out of thirty four in total in SARDA England. All four of the CVSRT dogs are border collies, which our handlers prefer for their intelligence, agility and durability.
What is SARDA?
SARDA is the Search And Rescue Dog Association (England) which is affiliated to Mountain Rescue, England and Wales.
To be considered for training as a dog handler, an individual must have been on the callout list of a recognised Mountain Rescue or Search & Rescue Team for a minimum of one year, have the support of their team, and have been a dogsbody (see below) on national and local training courses. SARDA’s aim is to teach the handler ‘how to train dogs to become search dogs’, and not to teach the handler search and rescue skills. They do not train the general public to become dog handlers.
It generally takes about two years to train a dog to callout standard and assessment takes place in winter conditions over three days in the Lake District, Snowdonia or Brecon.
More information can be found on the SARDA website at www.sardaengland.org.uk
There was a short gap between Mike Haley and his dog retiring and Eric Spofforth and Brad grading, but otherwise, dogs have been in use by CVSRT since 1977.
For one period, 1996-1998 there were five graded dogs within the team simultaneously, and from 2013 to the present time there have been four graded dogs within the team which, nationally, is far in excess of the norm and is an indication of the commitment shown by CVSRT to the use of dogs as a search resource.
Eric Spofforth with Brad, and Eleanor Sherwin with Bonnie were both awarded the Novice Shield. This shield is presented in recognition of the standard of their performance at initial assessment, for a first dog, and is awarded only in years when a suitable candidate present themselves.
Whilst there is an expectation that border collies will be able to work until they are about 12 years old, and labrador/retrievers a bit less, the possibility of illness or injury is ever present and numbers can reduce unexpectedly.
In more detail:
Ellie has been involved with SARDA England for more years than she cares to remember. Starting as a dogsbody in the 1980’s helping train other dogs and handlers, she decided to join the other side and graded Bonnie, her first dog in 1996. Bonnie and Ellie were awarded the Novice shield at their initial assessment. They then went on to find a missing casualty on the first call out a month after grading.
Her second and current dog Pepper graded in January 2008. Pepper has had two finds, one in 2014, when assisting Holme Valley MRT, and one on Helvellyn, assisting Lakeland MRTs in winter conditions, in January 2015.
Ellie has been a members rep for SARDA England, has twice been secretary, and is currently one of the training officers.
David’s involvement with SARDA started in 1994 when training his first graded dog, Sam, who retired after seeing a long service as a search dog. His second and current dog, Nell graded in March 2006 and will probably be ready for retirement within a couple of years. With this is mind David has acquired a new border collie pup, Wynn, whose training has started (October 2015) and it is hoped will achieve the required standard in 2017.
David was SARDA Chairman from 2005 to 2010 and has been Assistant Leader and Chairman of CVSRT.
Pete joined the Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team in 1974 and has served in various roles over the years including a spell as team leader. He is currently team chairman.
Meg is Pete's fourth Border Collie, but the first to train as a search dog. She loves a daily swim in her local reservoir, which she credits with giving her such a clean and shiny coat!
Pete and Meg passed their assessment in January 2013.
Dave has been a member of CVSRT since 2003 and was previously the fundraising officer for the team.
Dave started training Jack in December 2009 and they were graded in January 2013 alongside Pete and Meg.
Jack is a Border Collie who loves working for tennis balls and a cuddle from the dogsbody.