When you look at most big mountain searches often little is said about SARDA. For many years they have been a great asset in the world of Mountain Rescue. Hamish McInnes and a few others helped bring the dogs use in Scotland especially for avalanches things have moved on since these early days.
A brief history of Search and Rescue Dogs
The use of dogs for search purposes goes back many years. In the 17th century, dogs were used to break trails in deep snow in Switzerland, and, apparently, records reveal that a dog named Barry saved 40 lives during his lifetime. During the first world war, dogs were used in the London blitz to locate buried casualties. Search dogs have also been used in disaster situations such as the Lockerbie tragedy in December 1988.
The Search and Rescue Dog Association in Scotland was conceived in 1965 by Hamish MacInnes, one of Scotland’s foremost mountaineers and mountain rescue experts. Hamish MacInnes paid a visit to an avalanche dog training course in Switzerland in the early 1960’s and immediately recognised the possibilities in Scotland.
From these early days SARDA has emerged into a UK wide organisation. I first was introduced in the early 70.’s and was amazed at there dedication. In these days they often worked alone and I would meet them on call outs all over Scotland.
When I became a Team leader I insisted that we would not leave the hill until all the dogs and handlers were accounted for. We opened our Base Camps ( Village Halls) to them for brews and soup and got to know each other. Over the years things have moved on yet those who have search dogs are the same type of folk.
It takes years of hard training to train the Search Dogs and it is amazing to watch them in action. The commitment is incredible by the handlers and trainers. Also those who work as “bodies” casualties for the dogs to find is incredible. They are a true family within SAR and I am hoping to get out soon when my health improves.
Lockerbie. – This is when the dogs from all over the UK worked for months in the aftermath. I believe there were 45 dogs and there handlers were there. I met many who dealt with trauma on a scale well beyond anyone’s experience. They like many were unsung heroes and heroines and years later many still struggle from the tragedy they shared.
Every week SARDA is out not just for Mountaineers but vulnerable people and assist the community in many ways. SARDA has come a long way since the 60’s. We are so lucky to have this great asset. It would not exist without the efforts of all involved. We must never forget the support of families.
SARDA relies on fundraising and if you can it would be great if you could donate to SARDA to assist in their work.
I have the honour to be the President of SARDA Scotland and hopefully when my health improves will be able to assist a bit more. Thank you and your families for all you do.
Thank you all.