Search and Rescue: Thanking two members of the team for their service

Search Dog Pepper with handler Ellie (left) and Search Dog Nell with handler David
Search Dog Pepper with handler Ellie (left) and Search Dog Nell with handler David

Since the late 1980’s, CVSRT has been fortunate to benefit from the additional support of our four-legged friend – the Search Dog.

So far, 16 dogs belonging to Team Members have assisted the team with missing person searches. Search dogs are not restricted to their teams local area and can be called upon to assist with searches anywhere in the country - most notably our dogs have assisted with major incidents in Ireland, Scotland, The Lockerbie air disaster and in Machynlleth, Wales for the April Jones search.

Until recently, CVSRT had five operational search dogs and three trainee dogs, however two of our longest serving dogs, ‘Nell’ and ‘Pepper’ (both border collies) have started a well-earned retirement following more than 10years service dedicated to the team.

Pepper (handled by Ellie), spent three years learning her trade, which culminated in her successfully passing a three-day assessment and joined CVSRT as a fully graded search dog in January 2007. She loves people, so finding them is a great game. Combine this with her favourite squeaky toy as a reward and she is more than happy. Her intensive training focused on basic obedience to finding people (bodies) hiding on a hillside and letting Ellie know by barking and leading her back to the person.

Pepper and Ellie practiced and trained virtually every day for three years and the results were incredible.

During her working life Pepper has provided a keen nose to many searches, both in the Calder Valley and further afield. As well as assisting in Wales, she has had many outings to the Lake District, Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. In 2015, a major search was mounted in atrocious weather conditions by multiple rescue teams to locate a missing walker in the Lake District.

It transpired that he had fallen from the summit of Helvellyn and unfortunately did not survive the fall. Pepper and Ellie were deployed to assist fellow search teams and successfully located the man who had been missing for several days. Thankfully not everyone Pepper has found were so unfortunate: over her working life she’s found five missing persons alive, two of which were on consecutive searches. Pepper is looking forward to a long and happy retirement.

Nell (handled by David) passed her assessment in Snowdonia and joined CVSRT in March 2006, a few months before her second birthday. She was a quick learner and took to search work very enthusiastically. Her first assignment was to the Lake District a couple of weeks after passing her assessment and a few months later located a flood victim in the River Swale in North Yorkshire.

She was instrumental in locating a despondent adult on Ilkley Moor, with David providing emergency care to the casualty. Nell has always been a confident dog, happy to work at great distances from her handler and thereby searching and clearing large swathes of moorland or mountainside very efficiently. She retired recently on her 13th birthday, having given over 11 years of service to CVSRT.

Following Nell and Peppers retirement, CVSRT still has excellent support from two border collies, ‘Meg’ and ‘Jack’ who are both eight years and still in their prime, also from ‘Finn’ - a smooth coated collie (handled by Stephen), who recently joined CVSRT.

There are also three new trainee search dogs within the team. ‘Wynn’ - a lively collie, who lives with David and Nell; ‘Tinker’ - a boisterous Labradoodle (handled by Simon); and most recently ‘Orion’ - a bouncy springer spaniel (handled by Gary). All unaware that the great game that they are learning to play could in the future provide a lifesaving service.

CVSRT would like to thank Nell and Pepper for their many years of dedication and commitment to the team and the community.