Fergus and his dog Bess. Here is his story.
My involvement with SARDA started in 1996 when on a search operation in the Wicklow mountains, with the Glen of Imaal Mountain Rescue Team. This was the first time I had ever seen the Mountain Rescue Dogs in action. I was extremely impressed with speed and efficiently with which the dogs searched the difficult terrain, I thought to myself this could be for me!!!
I joined SARDA as a “Dogsbody” and learned how the Search Dogs worked. I spent plenty of long wet, cold, windy and sunny days lying on the tops and sides of mountains and enjoyed every minute of it. I did not make the decision to train a search dog lightly. Because I could see the commitment and dedication that was required to be a qualified search and rescue dog handler.
In June 1997 I decided to start on the long and hard road to becoming a Search Dog Handler. I was on the look out for the right pup for a long time and then in August 97, I came across Bess, a sixteen week old border collie, she was from a working back round with her mother and father both sheep dog champions. I bought Bess from a sheep farmer in County Wicklow. So we became a team from day one.
Over the next three years we trained extremely hard to qualify as a Search Dog Team. First we completed an obedience training course with the North Side Dog training training Club in Dublin. Bess toped the class and won a trophy for best over all dog. We then went on to complete our live stock training and then we were tested and passed. We travelled over to England and Scotland on a number training courses with SARDA Lakes and Wales. Under instruction from SARDA Irelands qualified dog handlers we clocked up a lot of hours training on the Wicklow, Kerry, Galway and Commeragh Mountains. In November 2000 we both qualified after three long wet and hard days of assessment. The pressure and tension you are under during this assessment is quite unbelievable, years of hard work resting on three days of assessment on the mountains. We passed because it was a joint effort from myself and Bess and we proved to the assessors that we worked very well as a team and were more then capable to carry out long search and rescue operations. Since then we have kept busy throughout the years on both mountain and urban searches. As we live in Kildare Town we are ideally placed to quick access to all the major routes to respond to that call for assistance any were in Ireland. Now, we go every where together, she evens comes to work with me.
When we are not running up and down mountains, she lives at home with the family, if you did not know she was a Mountain Rescue Search Dog you would think that she was just another family pet. Bess tells me it’s a great life for a dog.
N.B Due to family and work commitments Fergus and Bess have taken a sabbatical from Sarda and all mountain rescue work. What the future holds for this pair we don’t know. But for the time, effort and dedication they gave over the years we in Sarda are extremely grateful, they attained a standard that all search dog teams should aspire to. Rumour has it that Bess and Fergus are likely to re-appear on the scene shortly as it is they have one footpaw in the profile page!