When a search is necessary, Keswick team often calls on the services of Search Dogs to assist. These are specially trained, air-scenting dogs trained by the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs Association. The dogs are trained over a period of two or more years, to indicate when they find someone, to return to the handler and indicate by barking, before returning to the casualty, and continuing to bark to show the location. Where a casualty is unconscious or unresponsive, they may well be the only certain way of locating a casualty.
The handlers are, themselves, all members of Lake District Mountain Rescue Teams, and although attached to a “home” team, are available to assist other teams who need their services. The search dog teams are used to operate in darkness, and in bad weather – indeed, most dogs work better in windy, wet weather. The dog teams are rigorously assessed on a variety of terrain, and in a variety of weather conditions, before being placed on the Callout List. Searches in our area often involve more than one team, as the central fells are the responsibility of Keswick, Langdale/Ambleside and Wasdale MRTs. Dogs are useful to cover areas which would require large resources in manpower, or which involve complex crags and boulder fields, so areas such as Lambfoot Dub, the Glaramara ridge, or Seathwaite Fell can be covered with a good degree of certainty using a number of dogs.. As the dog teams travel from all over the Lake District, dogs are deployed on an “as they arrive” basis.
Currently, the graded search dogs attached to Keswick MRT are: –
Search Dog Ginny, about to clock up her 10th year as a Search Dog, with 250 callouts behind her, but now slowing down and nearing retirement. Ruthless in her pursuit of tennis balls and cuddles, she and handler Mick Guy are inseparable.
Search Dog Meg, graded in March 2011 by Elly Whiteford. Meg is a rescued 3 year old collie, who wasn’t suited to farm work, and Elly adopted her to replace her first dog Mac. Initially Meg seemed somewhat injury prone, but has now stabilised, and is working well with…
Search Dog Bracken, also trained by Elly Whiteford. A large and imposing collie, sometimes known as “Bear”, Bracken has now become Meg’s working companion.
Search Dog Rona, trained by Rob Grange. Rona is Rob’s first dog; a lively and combative collie bitch, Rona passed her final assessment in November 2015, and has already clocked up her first callouts.
Search Dog Isla, trained by Martin Bell. Martin had a shot at training a dog some years ago, but it didn’t work out. This time, it was successful, and Martin & Isla gained their coveted Green Tag at the end of December 2015. Isla is loosely related to Search Dog Ginny, so we are hoping that she will take on her mantle when retirement finally arrives.
Search Dog Beck – the only Labrador among a sea of “black & white things”, as Chris Francis, her handler would say. Graded in October 2012, Beck is the 3rd Labrador Chris has trained.