We join Cornwall Search and Rescue Dog training to find lost and missing people
Sable’s muzzle is flat on the ground, searching the underbrush on the forest floor.
The three-year-old German shepherd is definitely pushed, even on a mission, to stop in a dip in the landscape as if to seek a lost track, then he comes out in a flash, sniffing, searching, until finally , she finds the missing person she had been assigned to search for.
The “game” is over and Sable is rewarded with fish cookies from her owner Jason Willis. The 10-meter leash used to control her during her training is reeled in and soon Sable is back in her normal harness, ready for her next search and rescue training session.
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Jason, who runs the Animals at Home franchise in Cornwall from Hayle, reviews the video of Sable’s session through the woods at Lanhydrock near Bodmin and nods.
“She did very well,” he said. “Older dogs tend to be more focused than puppies. She was slightly confused in the dive but she got back on the track very quickly once she came out of it. It was really good.”
Jason joined Cornwall Search Dogs five months ago after his own tragic experience.
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“I lost my own dog,” he said. “One of my German Shepherds escaped from my home and disappeared. I was out all night frantically looking for my dog. This feeling of losing your dog is heartbreaking.
Luckily two girls found Jason’s dog and took her to the vet and it was a happy reunion with her owner the next morning.
Jason is one of 12 volunteers and administrators who are part of the young charity.
Cornwall Search Dogs was established in October 2020 by a group of former Mountain Rescue and Lowland Rescue Team members keen to fill the gaps left by mountain rescue organizations and the police, to search not only for people missing, but also lost dogs.
The members, who all train their own pets, meet every Sunday at a different location in West or East Cornwall in the woods, on the beaches and in urban settings. practice every time.
“About a month after the association was founded,” explained Jenny Pickles, Polzeath’s consulting engineer and one of the five founding trustees, “we were asked to find a missing dog. It was a two-year-old trail That’s where our niche really is. The police will be looking for missing people and dogs after a few hours. They’re looking for new leads. But we’re working on old leads. We’re focusing training on sensory discrimination. This is our unique selling point.
Jenny, who owns and trains Maysie, an 11-year-old cocker spaniel, and Indi, a seven-month-old spaniel, said the best dogs for this specific type of work are good sniffer dogs with long muzzles like German Shepherds, spaniels, gun dogs, labradors and other hunting dogs.
“They all have to love the game and work,” she explained. “Finding a missing person or a missing dog, that’s what it’s all about for them. They know they are working and will get a reward at the end, but the game itself is the reward and they love it.
“The scent training we do isn’t hard on their joints and muscles and it’s a great discipline. They are all happy and healthy dogs.
One of the first jobs Cornwall Search Dogs, funded entirely by donations, was called upon to do was search for two missing Jack Russells who had disappeared from an elderly woman’s home.
“The dogs had been missing for three days and two nights,” said Tracy Simpson, from Helston, and one of the charity’s trustees: “We didn’t expect to find them. Then we found them in a warren where they had gotten stuck. We were able to dig them up and reunite them with their owner was just the best feeling. After we did that I thought, yeah, that’s what it’s all about. acts.
Annie Page, another of the charity’s founders, has been mantrailing for three years. A former member of the Cornwall Search and Rescue team, she said the charity gets so many dogs and their owners through their certifications to find missing dogs, which is recognized by police forces , in the hope that Devon and Cornwall Police can call on the charity for help if needed.
The dogs are also sense trained to locate missing persons, which again can offer vital assistance for search and rescue and 999 services, especially in situations where blue light crews may not have the resources. needed to perform a full search.
This research can concern elderly people with Alzheimer’s who have gone out and become lost, people in shock after an accident who have escaped, or even criminals who have fled a crime scene and are on the run.
The Lostwithiel business owner said: ‘Searching for a missing person or reuniting people with their missing dogs is simply the best feeling in the world.’
To find out what the charity’s volunteer-trained dogs are doing, we hid behind a tree after walking around another, through some bushes and onto the nearby road before turning back and walk past a pile of fallen branches and around another large tree.
Tracy let Freda, her eight-month-old springer spaniel, sniff our scarf, then let her go at the end of her own 10-yard line. Maybe less than a minute later, Freda was looking at us and wagging her tail to devour a treat of sardines from Tracy for her good job well done.
“She followed your exact scent trail,” Tracy explained. “Even where you messed up and backtracked, she did too, which is perfect. She took the exact same turns as you and came back to your track. Puppies can get a little excited but this was perfect. I’m really proud of her.
To learn more about Cornwall Search Dogs, visit their website at https://cornwallsearchdogs.org/index.html