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Border collies from same litter join Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team as SARDA rescue dogs


By Mike Merritt

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Collies Meg and Rona with owners Alison Smith and Steve Worsley.
Collies Meg and Rona with owners Alison Smith and Steve Worsley.

Sister, it certainly is a dog's life in the Highlands.

For Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team have welcomed two talented Ross-shire sisters onto their team.

But they might not be who you would expect to find you when lost on a hill.

Collies Meg and Rona, born from the same litter, grew up in their respective homes of Dingwall and Ullapool and have trained for the last year-and-a-half with Search and Rescue Dog Association Scotland (SARDA).

Their owners, Alison Smith and Steve Worsley, are members of Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team, and both dogs and handlers have now qualified to join searches for missing people across Scotland.

While for Alison this is her first search and rescue dog, Steve has been a member of SARDA for 14 years. Rona is his third dog to join him on the hills.

The dogs train closely with Dundonnell MRT, covering some of the wildest and remotest terrain in the country. This also includes the challenge of working alongside coastguard helicopters from Stornoway and Inverness.

Team leader Iain Nesbitt said: “The addition of two SARDA dogs to our team resource is such a valuable asset and will make a considerable difference to the lives of the people we set out to assist.”

Alison added: “I have been part of the Dundonnell MRT for three years, helping find missing vulnerable people in both rural and urban settings.

"Including Meg now means that we will be able to help the team cover wider areas quickly – especially important when the wind is howling and the rain is pouring. Being on call and travelling to remote areas can be a real challenge, but the reward of helping people and their families makes it worth it every time.”

Their training, relying on the dog’s acute sense of smell to detect human scent in the air, has allowed both animals and handlers to form a highly efficient team, working in all weathers, day and night to cover huge search areas quickly.

Meeting other handlers from across Scotland for a full weekend each month, the dogs head out to find volunteer “bodies” and receive their toy reward. Although now qualified as novice dogs to join searches, both dogs and handlers will continue training regularly as they work towards full search dog team status.



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