I did not get a puppy with the intention of training a SAR dog; I more or less stumbled upon the idea accidentally. When my dog, Koiru, was 2 years old, I happened to see a SAR dog demonstration at a Red Cross event. Afterwards I talked to the handler, Noel Murphy, and he encouraged me to give it a go with my dog. So I did — and Koiru was showing very good potential from early on. I started training with Noel and even managed to recruit a few semi-regular dogsbodies from my area in Beara, West Cork. I also acquired some body gear, radios and a few other bits and pieces as I continued to train Koiru independently. Noel was a great help to me; along the way I also got some advice from another experienced dog-handler, Mick McCarthy.
I was aware of Sarda but took my time to make contact with them. One reason for this was that their training events always seemed to take place on the other side of the country… but then I suppose that tends to be the case if you live at the end of a remote peninsula!
Because I am a member of the Coast Guards (Castletownbere unit), it had always been my hope that I could utilise my dog on the mountain call-outs that my unit gets. Somewhat unusually for coast guards, the Castletownbere team is involved in quite a few rescues on the hills every year. I was told by the CG management that the only way I could ‘officially’ use my dog on CG callouts was if she was qualified through SARDA. So this finally tipped it for me.
After having trained with Koiru for more than 2 years, I made contact with Sarda in early 2009 and went along to one of the national training weekends. I thoroughly enjoyed it. After that, I started to attend the weekends regularly, doing both bodying for others and training myself.
The support I received from everyone really helped me as I was preparing for the 3- day assessment in March 2010. The assessment went well, and Koiru and I qualified as a novice search dog team. It was one of the proudest days of my life.
Koiru is getting on a bit now but is showing no signs of slowing down. She’s still a big puppy and is forever pestering people to play with her and throw sticks for her, as anyone in SARDA will testify. It goes without saying that she absolutely loves the training. I am so glad that I’ve found the one thing that her obsessive personality traits are useful for! And hopefully, one day, she and I can really help somebody in trouble. —
Pauliina and Koiru achieved the Full Search Dog grade at the assessments held in the Mourne Mountains in October 2011.