Search handler Louise Holmes who set up the Lowland Search Dogs has been nominated for a Daily Mirror and RSPCA Animal Hero award in the lifetime achievement category.
Louise and her faithful search and rescue dog Brock had only been on the job two days when they made their first and most startling find – the body of ex-weapons inspector Dr David Kelly.
Since then Louise has helped police search for hundreds of missing persons but still recalls that first mission after Dr Kelly went missing from his Oxfordshire home in July 2003.
The dog trainer from Bracknell, Berks, said:
“It was just two days after Brock had qualified as a search dog. We’d been out an hour when Brock ran to alert me he had found someone.
“He is trained to guide me there, but he wouldn’t go back and lay down at my feet.
“I knew something was wrong, so I retraced his path. It was David Kelly, he had committed suicide and had been dead only a matter of hours.”
Lowland Search Dogs now has 47 qualified animals
Since then 11-year-old springer spaniel Brock and Louise have been involved in nearly 500 searches, and Lowland Search Dogs now has 47 qualified animals with a further 20 in training, all managed by volunteers who operate in areas not covered by mountain rescue.
Yet when Louise set it up not everyone thought it was a good idea. She said:
“People looked funny and joked ‘but there’s no mountains to get lost in’. However, the most common reason for being called out is someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia who has wandered off. People at risk of harming themselves are the next most common call-out.
“We are trained for all eventualities and it can make such a difference to a search having one of our dogs there.”
Nomination forms should be completed and submitted by tomorrow 18 October. Once the nominations have been received they will be shortlisted by our review panel.
Please nominate online at the Animal Hero Awards website.
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Credit for this article goes to Euan Stretch from the Daily Mirror