We were contacted by the 6th Cavan Scouts in Kingscourt. Their project this year is to train their senior scouts in lowland search and rescue. They are using the methods used by Kent lowland SAR in the UK. They will be the first and only scout group in Ireland to achieve the award and if it is successful they hope that it will be adopted nationally as a scouting option. As part of the scouts experience they were hoping to be able to be introduced to a handler and dog from SARDA – and give a short informal talk about our work. They are aiming to inspire the scouts to consider undertaking similar work themselves when they are older and they hope that once the scouts reach ventures age they will be available for call out in the local area if required by the Gardai.
So last Friday we travelled up to meet the scouts. We met them in the local Community Centre, as their new Scout Den is being built in the Dun na Rí Forest Park, and gave them a presentation on the history of how SARDA started in Ireland, the reason behind using dogs and why we use dogs and then an overview of how we search using the dogs. It was a very interesting evening full of questions and plenty of thought and enthusiasm.
After the presentation we were lucky enough to witness some of the local scouts receive an award as part of the ONE Programme Adventure Skills, Level 5 badge. This is for Basic experience of both Mountain Navigation and Mountain camping, including the ability to lead a ‘leg’ of a hike. This is supplemented by a basic knowledge of both First Aid and the Principles of ‘Leave no Trace’ (LNT).
On the Saturday Morning Dog team Jarlath and Hugo (under the watchful eye of Boss) travelled from Galway to Cavan to show the scouts how a search works. As usual there was great excitement over the dogs (you don’t have to be young to get excited over dogs), plenty of questions and the one thing dogs love, attention.
We set up a search area with 4 groups of 2 and placed them out in the area. We then went through the search plan with the scouts asking them how they would search the area and then from what they had learnt the night before, how would they search the area using a dog, taking into account wind direction and terrain. The scouts were very professional in their replies and had a good working knowledge of search. We then let Jarlath and Hugo loose on the hill side and watched them work. To everyone’s amazement the first group were found in a matter of minutes. After Hugo had been sufficiently rewarded he headed of in search of his next find. At this point we took time look at how quickly the body was found, even though it was camouflaged in heather, and the difference between the 2 search types. Hugo continued to find the next 3 groups in quick succession, ignoring the group of people following him around the hillside.
We then changed area, that allowed the onlookers to have an aerial view of the search area. We again placed 4 groups out in the area and watched the dogs work his way around the area. From the view point we could see the dog travelling backwards and forwards across the scent cone and eventually onto the intended target.
We then went through some actual searches that had taken place over the years, what was involved, what type of location and the outcome of the searches.
It was a great experience meeting the scouts and their hard working leaders and we hope that if and when we meet them again it is under social occasions and not under search conditions. We wish them all the best with the construction of their new Den.