My name is Eiger. I am a Mountain Rescue Dog. I have been trained to find people who go missing on the mountains by “air-scenting” them and following their scent to where they are sheltering, go back to my handler, Helen, and tell her I have found the missing person by barking, then leading her into the casualty. It all seems very simple now but when I started out it was quite a lot to learn. I had to do all the mannerly things like sit, lie down, stay and walk to heel on and off a lead. I even had to learn to ignore sheep, something I did not have a problem with but I know may others who found this the most difficult task of all. Then the fun bit started: running after someone who pretended to hide and played with me with my favourite toy when I found them. It was a great game. I then learned to speak for the toy, eventually learning to go back to Helen to tell her I had found someone by barking and taking her to the lost person. After I got very proficient at this, I had to look for someone I did not see go hiding and I did this by using my nose. Do you know that all you humans give off a particular scent or smell into the wind that I can recognise and then find? Next on the list of items to learn was going up the mountain when I was asked and then to go down the mountain, all the time looking for human scent. It started out as little searches of 5/10 minutes but getting longer as I got older and better at finding people. When I was working areas for 2/3 hours, I was ready for that big exam in Wales, the one decides whether or not I was ready to go on real searches for real missing persons. After three days and 7 areas later, I was declared a “Novice Search Dog” and my name was added to the list of other dogs on the Emergency Service. At last I was ready to serve my country. This took time to achieve. One year later, I was re-assessed and graded up to “Full Search Dog” with further re-grades every 3 years since then to see that I am still up to standard.
It has been great when I have saved someone’s life like to two walkers on the Galtees last Christmas two years ago or the body of the child I spotted in the river in Baltinglass helping his family to begin their grieving. Best of all was the patient missing from the Mental Hospital in Glanmire, who had the whole staff searching for him for 3 days. I came in and found him within 5 minutes, right outside the main door of the hospital, where he had gone to ground, thinking he was back in the 2nd World War behind enemy lines. The searchers had probably passed him 30 or 40 times over the 3 days and never spotted him but he did not fool my nose.
I am now 13 years old and slowing up very much. The work has been very enjoyable though sometimes hard with long days and searches lasting for three to four days in some cases. On Saturday 12th April, 2003, I applied for my well earned pension and was granted it. I have hung up my search disc and put my paws up to rest. I now look forward to my days in the garden under the shade of the summer trees or by the winter fireside. All you need is a good thick coat to withstand the weather, have a good nose for smelling, want to learn new tricks and save lives on the way, you will be most welcome. There is a vacancy right now to fill my paws. If your owners are looking for something different to do, they might also come along and hide out in the mountainside for us to help us train and perfect our skills.
Sadly, Eiger is no longer with us.
Obituary of SAR dog BEN, who died after a very brief illness Easter 2001.
It all started for Ben at 5 weeks old. A mountaineer arrived into Cronin’s Yard, at the foot of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, looking for help for an injured walker he had happened upon while out for a stroll. Mrs. Cronin offered Don a pup from the litter running about under his feet. So Ben tagged along the Hags Glen after Don to his first rescue, and got his name from the overshadowing Binn Chaorach Ridge. Then he went home with Don, his new master, tired after his first adventure into the mountains.
The next few weeks were spent getting to know Don, his family, Don’s Search Dog Rizzo, a big German Shepherd and his new surroundings, playing with a ball, learning to sit and lie down, come and walk to heel. Once Ben settled in, his real training to become a Search Dog began. Don’s family and friends played games running away from Ben and playing ball with him when he caught up with them. He even watched as the maestro, Rizzo, searched for people who could not be seen and find them to play a game of ball. Ben worked hard to learn all he was thought by Don & Rizzo. At two years of age, Ben was ready to go to Wales to be assessed on this ability to cover the mountainside, find people who were hiding in the mountain and take Don back to these people. Ben passed with flying colours and now was officially on the call out list for the Mountain Rescue 999 Service to help lost or injured people in need all over Ireland’s mountainside.
From that time until Easter Sunday 2001, Ben attended many call outs throughout the country and in Britain searching mountainside, rivers, lakes, woods and open country in his bid to save lives. He continued to train hard with all the Mountain Rescue Teams in Ireland and Britain, striving to improve himself and attended Disaster and Avalanche Courses where he always excelled.
Ben will be missed by all. R.I.P.
Zeus, the trainee Search and Rescue Dog. Died September 2003 after a brief illness.
Gary & Zeus joined SARDA Ireland in late 2002, Zeus, a German Shepard worked hard. Before joining SARDA Gary and Zeus had been training for a few years independently of SARDA. Gary and Zeus were looking forward to their first assessment for Novice SAR Dog November this year. Unfortunately, that is not to be. Zeus will be missed.
Bran, the trainee Search and Rescue Dog. Died March 2004.
Bran joined SARDA Ireland in a few years ago. Bran attempted his first assessment last November but decided he was not quite ready and he was looking forward to his next chance. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Bran was put down March 2004 as a result of poisoning. Our thoughts are with his family.