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Bow down… wow: meet search dogs and handlers who go the extra mile to save lives and limbs

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Getting dispatched to natural disasters in the blink of an eye, entering collapsed buildings after fires, and locating missing people in all weather and all terrain is a day’s job for some of the search and rescue dogs. the most dedicated and skilled in the UK.

Colley Floss, a Search and Rescue Dog Association Ireland North (SARDA IN) rescue dog, is qualified to find missing persons in various situations and has been selected from thousands of entries across the UK to be in the race to be crowned ‘Superdog’ in the next Naturo Superdog Awards.

The owners submitted their stories of heroism, camaraderie and support, explaining why their precious pooch should be given the title.

Last year Floss earned his National Mountain Search Dog qualification, the highest standard awarded to volunteer search teams.

Previously, she had performed assessments in several disciplines, including plains and collapsed structures, which enabled her to assist in research on a range of terrains and disasters.

In 2019, as part of a team of search and rescue dogs and their handlers, she located a high-risk person who had been missing for more than four days.

Floss is on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ready to be called upon to help reunite the missing with their loved ones, in the rain, snow or sun.

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APPOINTMENT: Raph and his collie Floss

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

APPOINTMENT: Raph and his collie Floss

Her manager, Newcastle man Raph O’Connor, said she was very easy to please.

“She does it all – goes out in all weather and all terrain – for a tennis ball as a treat. Floss is without a doubt a great dog, and we all love him very much, ”he explained.

The brave collie is joined on a mission by a number of highly trained dogs – all with unique traits – who regularly aid the emergency services in search operations across Northern Ireland.

Last year, SARDA IN welcomed two more dogs to its pack of brave canines.

Bodhi, the four-year-old golden labrador, is qualified to search plains and collapsed structures, meaning he and Michael McCamley – his handler and a SARDA IN volunteer – could be called in at any time to help the service. Irish fire and rescue team on a missing persons search, as well as other search and rescue teams around the world working in natural disasters.

Michael said Bodhi, who has trained with SARDA IN for the past three and a half years, made him “really proud”.

“Labradors are very strong dogs, and Bodhi in particular is very athletic and is also extremely intelligent, so it was a pleasure to train,” he added.

“The training is admittedly a lot of long hours, but it all pays off on assessment day because it proves that if you devote your time to your dog, you get a lot out of it. “

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Michel and Bodhi


Michel and Bodhi

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Michel and Bodhi

Dr Neil Powell, the founder of SARDA IN, said he was “so proud” of all the dogs involved in the charity, including his five-year-old Springer Spaniel, Nelly, who passed his recovery assessment. of victim last year in the Mournes.

Dr Powell began training Nelly when she was only eight weeks old. She is currently the only victim recovery dog ​​on the team.

“My dog ​​Fern has worked as a water-based victim recovery dog ​​for 15 years and has found 14 people during that time, but she is now enjoying her retirement,” Neil told Sunday Life.

“The next step for Nelly would be to train her to be a water-based victim recovery dog, just like Fern.”

Michael said the team had dogs that specialize in most disciplines, including trailing, casualty recovery and mountain rescue.

“Each of our dogs would be specialized in a task. However, the collapsed structure, the mountain
and plain [rescue] are all relatively similar in that they rely on the detection of odors carried by the wind, ”he added.

“Some owners prefer to be in the mountains, while others work in less difficult lowland areas, but all of our dogs are very intelligent.”

Dr. Powell has been training a unique breed of dog called the Black and Tan American Coonhound for two years.

“Magnus is just a fantastic dog, and he’s a very special breed,” he told Sunday Life.

“He can smell streaks for up to 24 hours and we hope he will qualify as a specialized sled dog soon. “

The founder of the association recently obtained a doctorate from Queen’s University in Belfast. His research has focused on dogs’ powerful sense of smell and how they can predict epileptic seizures naturally, without any formal training.

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CRUCIAL SKILLS: Neil and Magnus, founders of the charity


CRUCIAL SKILLS: Neil and Magnus, founders of the charity

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

CRUCIAL SKILLS: Neil and Magnus, founders of the charity

Using the knowledge gained from this research, it will be possible to train dogs to provide a warning signal to owners of an impending crisis – something that could save their lives.

Dr Powell was the principal investigator and worked closely with Drs Gareth Arnott and Alastair Ruffel.

Experts hypothesized that “given dogs’ extraordinary sense of smell, a volatile organic compound exhaled by the dog’s epileptic owner may provide an early warning trigger mechanism to which dogs respond before the seizure.”

Dr Powell said: “The results showed that companion dogs have the very real promise of being a reliable source for detecting the onset of seizures.”

The study was published in the journal MDPI Animals.

The research was supported and partially funded by Epilepsy Ireland and Disability Assistance Dogs Northern Ireland, as well as contributions from members of the public in Castlewellan and Newcastle.

SARDA IN, a registered charity, is the only search and rescue dog organization registered by the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland which is authorized to provide dogs in a search for missing persons in support of the PSNI .

The association would like to thank the public for their continued support for this vital work.

?? For more information visit www.facebook.com/sarda.irelandnorth


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