Published: Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Burns Pet Nutrition is proud to sponsor Jake and Laura Connolly, who graded as a Mountain Rescue Search Dog team in 2008. Laura kindly took time out of her busy schedule to tell us all about the valuable voluntary work they do.
My name is Laura Connolly and I am a physiotherapist, working in a rehabilitation centre for injured firefighters. Jake (my 10 year old border collie) and I graded as a Mountain Rescue Search Dog team in 2008.
Search dogs are a valuable asset to the work of Mountain Rescue Teams in assisting the search for missing people. We use the natural air scenting ability of the dogs and their keenness to range and hunt to help us locate the casualties. A dog team comprising of dog and handler can cover the same area as that of 20 team members in a line-search formation, making them really efficient. Their ability to work well at night and in all kinds of weather makes them the ideal choice for searching.
As dog handlers in the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs Association, we are members of our local Team but provide cover for the whole of the Lake District. We may also be called to assist other mountain rescue teams in the north of England and southern Scotland. We attended 62 call-outs in 2014.
Training a search dog, like training any dog, is a rewarding and challenging process. It takes on average between 18 months to 3 years to train and grade a search dog.
The assessment process is a rigorous one and must ensure that by the time the dog and handler grades as a ‘dog team’, they have been tested over different terrain, using different strategies in all weather conditions during daylight and nightime. Being awarded the coveted ‘green tag’ is a landmark event in any dog team’s working life.
It is very satisfying to know that you have played a part in assisting the police to carry out a detailed search of an area and even more satisfying when you locate the missing person. It’s great to take such a loyal companion out on the hill with you, particularly when it’s dark and cold and wet, for several hours at a time.
We are called to assist fell-walkers who are overdue, people with mental health problems who have gone missing or people who have become injured on the fells and are unable to summon help themselves.
We are all volunteers and most of us have ‘day jobs’. We can be called out at any time of the day or night and sometimes call-outs can extend over more than one day. It is important therefore that our dogs have excellent nutrition and are ready for search work anytime of the day or night.
I was really relieved when I found that Jake liked and thrived on Burns, because as a puppy he was a really fussy eater.
With its natural ingredients and balanced nutrition, I am confident I am giving him the best fuel to maintain the health, fitness and mental energy required to be a Mountain Rescue Search Dog.
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