At 05:45 on Saturday Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team received a request to assist West Yorkshire Police search for a 65yo man who has gone missing from his home in a rural area of Todmorden.
22 CVSRT members and three Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England Search Dogs, Jack, Meg and Wynn searched woodland near Shore Green.
In Attendance: 22 CVSRT
West Yorkshire Police
Duration: 6hrs 23mins
- Date Saturday, 24 August 2019
- Location Shore Green, Todmorden
- Grid Reference SD 91427 26583
- Latitude 53.735563
- Longitude -2.1314442
- Man Hours 140.4
- Members In Attendance 22
Yesterday saw the start of Cruft’s and a time of year when dogs of all shapes, sizes and uses hit our screens. For CVSRT, and many other Lowland Rescue and Mountain Rescue England and Wales teams, dogs trained as Search Dogs provide invaluable additional support year round.
Since the late 1980’s, CVSRT has been fortunate to benefit from a total of 16 dogs belonging to team members, and our four-legged friends have assisted with many missing person searches. One of those 16 dogs is Finn, a handsome Smooth Collie dog, who sadly passed away after a short illness in February.
After some time to grieve the sad loss of his special mate, handler Stephen Garofalo has written some words in tribute to Finn and the journey they shared. RIP Search Dog Finn.
“It all started in October 2007. Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue Team, of which I was a member, staged an exercise on television to try and attract new members. A couple of days later I received a phone call from Team Leader Andy Simpson saying he’d received a letter from Colne dog breeder, Pat Howarth, offering a Smooth Collie pup for training as a Search Dog. I accepted the offer.
The litter arrived on the 29th of December and on the 14th of February I picked my dog, Finn. He was a tri-coloured pup and I liked the fact that he was of a good size and affectionate. The time came where we took him home. He instantly took over the cat bed and during day light hours was very happy with his new surroundings. At night he missed his mother. Anyone who knew Finn will tell you that he was very vocal and he spent the small hours sharing his grief with the entire street! The solution was to spend that first week sleeping on my back with my right arm outstretched to the pup and woe betide me if I changed position!
I had a few problems in 2008. My wife left me, my old search dog Roy died, and I lost my job. I suppose things might have been worse, but Finns training suffered because I didn’t give him the time and attention a young dog requires. But, as with all things, I was able to recover and by January 2011 I arrived at a Search and Rescue Search Dogs Association (now Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England) assessment with a good strong dog. Finn was fast and rangy with a strong bark indication. He liked people and he definitely liked to bark - not a bad combination in a Search Dog. Consequently we had an easy assessment and got onto the call-out list with a strong pass.
We then completed two operational searches, but on the second search he managed to cut his right hind leg. The first thing I noticed was a pool of blood on a stile platform he had just jumped over. A close inspection of the injury revealed cut tendons, fortunately the ones that gave his foot shape and not the ones that propelled him. Luckily he only needed stitches and not a cast. However, I then had three months with a bored idle dog, but he did make a full recovery.
We attended seventy four searches over the years. Some were very high profile and some were in beautiful surroundings. It saddens me that he never had a find but at least he never missed anyone which is more important.
I noticed over this winter that he had slowed down and on the Sunday before Christmas he had a fit. He then had another on the 16th of January. Blood and urine test at the vets revealed nothing that could cause a fit, but on the 28th of January he had a fit in the evening and then another in the small hours of the morning. On Tuesday morning we took him to the vets, where he had another fit and the vet noticed that some of his liver enzymes were high and wanted to scan his liver before making a decision on how to treat the fits. He later phoned me to say they had found a tumour on his liver and that they were struggling to control his fits. Even if they could control his fits, between the drugs which would be needed to treat them and the weakened condition of his liver, he would only have a few months to live. I instructed the vet to put him down and that was it.
Everyone one thinks their dog is very special and I am no exception. Finn was my mate, a constant companion who came everywhere with me. I have many memories of days on the hill with him - we travelled the length and breadth of the country together. He's been everywhere from Land’s End to the North coast of Scotland. He had a very expressive face, could bark with his mouth full and in his youth he was fast enough to catch grey squirrels. He was well socialised and was good with other dogs, children and cats. He has sired two litters of puppies and has grandchildren.
On the down side he soon worked out that jabbing people in the crutch with his nose was a sure way of getting attention and his bottom served as a spring which bubbled forth almost continual dog wind.
We're going to miss him, but on the bright side I am in the process of acquiring one of his great grandsons and hope to train him as a Search Dog. Assuming the mother is pregnant the pups will arrive in April and I will have a new dog in July. Finn did well.”
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 had five finds, 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 8 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.
WARNING: CUTENESS ALERT
Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team (CVSRT) are very happy to announce that a new addition will start training very shortly in the hope of eventually joining the team!!
11weeks old Springer Spaniel ‘Orion’ with his owner and handler CVSRT Gary Smith from Todmorden, have dived straight into training which is expected to take approximately 2years to achieve the standard set by the Search and Rescue Dog Association. The pup has three distinct markings on his back that look similar to the stars in the constellation of ‘Orion’s Belt’. Orion is also known as ‘The Hunter’ in Greek mythology, so it seemed an appropriate name to choose for a search dog.
Gary joined CVSRT in 2015 and has been very actively involved with the development of our current search dogs by regularly volunteering as a ‘dogsbody’ for training, and also assisting as a navigator for our search dog handlers when they are deployed on callouts. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, ‘dogsbodies’ are highly valued people in the development of a search dog. These volunteers go out on the hill in all weather conditions to hide for the dogs to find on training exercises and assessments courses. They are essential and help to hone the dogs’ senses.
Search dogs have been a part of CVSRT since 1977. Over the years there have been 15 dogs and 10 handlers assisting the team on searches. The dogs are trained to 'Air Scent' so, as a general rule, they do not track the missing person, but react to wind borne human scent. A search dog can cover large areas of ground, including difficult terrain and woodland in the search and is very sensitive to any human scent it finds. It will immediately follow a scent to its source. It will then ‘indicate’ to its handler, usually by barking, to let them know it’s made a 'find'. It is not unusual for a dog to pick up a scent from a missing person, 500metres or more away.
If you would like to follow Orion’s development and training, he has his own Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/redtagspan/
To do something amazing and volunteer as a dogsbody please email: email@example.com
To find out more about CVSRT Search Dogs please visit: http://www.cvsrt.org.uk/the-team/cvsrt-search-dogs
At our AGM last week, CVSRT & SARDA member Ellie Sherwin was awarded with her 25 years Long Service Award with Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team. What an excellent achievement and incredible commitment. Well done Ellie, from all at CVSRT. (pictured here with Search Dog Pepper).
Ellie has kindly written a synopsis of her time with the team so far…
“I have always been an outdoor person and over 25 years ago I was acting as a “body” for the search and rescue dogs. At this point I decided I would like to be more involved in the nitty gritty of the rescue team and possibly the search dogs, so approached the team about joining.
I can remember being grilled about my “hill” experience, but think that membership of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club of the English Lake District, numerous Munro’s bagged, trips to the Alps, (including Mont Blanc), probably helped to convince the training officer of my capabilities. I also had an outdoor career as a Countryside Warden, at Hollingworth Lake Country Park, which may have contributed to my suitability.
During my time in Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team I have held the position of Secretary and Minutes Secretary, but my main interest has always been with the Search and Rescue Dogs. After a difficult period training my first dog Bonnie, I was awarded the coveted “Novice Shield” in 1995, for outstanding performance at the assessment.
The 4-day assessment confirms your ability to be included on the call out list as a dog handler. In fact my first call out was to search for a man missing near Baitings Dam near Ripponden, and after a very short search Bonnie located the missing person alive, behind a broken down wall. Following this we featured on a TV programme “Potty about Pets”, in which the team, Bonnie and myself were involved in a re-enactment of the scenario.
Bonnie sadly died at 10 years old, but after a short break Pepper joined the family and proved to be a willing student in the art of search and rescue. Pepper has been graded for 7 years now and in that time has found 2 missing people. I have been National Secretary for SARDA England for two long periods and have also held the position of Members Rep and Training Officer.
Through the team I have had the privilege of joining a group of like-minded people, with great skill and enthusiasm, all dedicated to helping others”.
CVSRT & SARDA dog handler
Click here to find out more about CVSRT Search Dogs.
On Saturday saw the deployment of the team en masse to the streets in Halifax and Keighley for our annual Christmas Collection to help raise essential funds to keep the team operational. We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to few individuals who helped throughout the day.
Thanks to Christian Scott Hairdressing who supplied water for our Search Dogs and made hot drinks for team members and gave us a box of chocolates towards the end of the day. Thanks also to Liquid Lens, Wright Angle Marketing and Elysium Screens for producing a 10 second digital advert that displayed on loop on the large advertising screen in Halifax town centre… and most of all, many thanks to all Christmas shoppers and local community who came along and supported us throughout the day. Your heart-warming messages of support, incredible gestures of kindness and very generous donations were gratefully received.
The grand total raised was £ 3,891.83. Please accept our sincere thanks.
Have a wonderful Christmas and stay safe if you’re out and about this festive season.
Thank you. CVSRT
If you missed seeing the team but still want to donate, please visit the Support Us page. Thank you.