Volunteer dog handler Rob Messenger and his pet ‘Penny’ have reached national standards to become a life-saving search dog team with Staffordshire Search and Rescue, a charity set up to help police find missing people.
The twenty-four year old Height and Safety Instructor and his three-year old bordie collie have trained for over two years to qualify as a National Search and Rescue Dog Association (NSARDA) lowland graded search dog. They have passed national obedience tests to demonstrate control off lead, emergency stop at a distance, speak and recall commands and sheep stock tests, to prove that that Penny can work undistracted off the lead around livestock, while searching for missing humans.
Penny is an air-scenting search dog. She will detect the strongest human scent in the air and follow it. Once she has located the missing person she will indicate a ‘find’ by barking to alert the handler and will take the medical team to the casualty. Handler Rob says
“Collies are very perceptive to a human’s body language and hand signals. I have to make sure my commands are clear and we communicate well when for example I instruct Penny to search in an area of thick or dense terrain”.
Rescue dogs can search fifty acres of woodland, farmland and heathland in ninety minutes. They can also find people in urban areas trapped in buildings, vehicles and confined spaces.
Rob and Penny join an established search dog section at the rescue service and will work alongside Staffordshire’s first qualified search dog handler Dave Barley with collie dog ‘Red’.