Searcher has 20 years of finding people
When many people think of heroes, a certain image comes to mind.
Perhaps it is a caped comic book crusader. Maybe it is the firefighter rushing into a burning building or the soldier carrying his fallen comrade on his back.
These are all heroes indeed. But there are unconventional heroes – the ones that no one really knows about. These are the quiet heroes amongst us who do incredible things for other people.
We have one of these heroes at Cape Breton Search and Rescue. His name is Dougie Hooper and he is a stalwart of the team. At every search, training event and meeting, Dougie is the first person you see when you arrive. He is always there – selflessly giving everything he has to serve others.
I dropped by to visit Dougie and find out what motivates him to give so much to search and rescue and to our community. I sat at the table with Dougie and his wife Theresa, the president of Cape Breton Search and Rescue. Dougie invited me over to show me a scrapbook that he has been keeping of every news item and story related to search and rescue since he joined the organization 20 years ago. In this way, Dougie is an unofficial historian of the group as well.
Two decades ago, Dougie joined search and rescue when his brother brought him into the organization. He had no outdoor skills. He didn’t even have a drivers’ license. He still doesn’t drive. But he became an expert at all the skills needed to survive in the woods. He learned map and compass, GPS, radio and other skills and now one of his greatest joys is teaching others. He and Theresa teach Adventure Smart to kids.
Adventure Smart highlights the four rules necessary to survive when lost in the woods: tell adults where you are going, hug a tree, stay warm and dry and help searchers find you. Dougie also teaches adults – newer members like me – the skills necessary to be a searcher.
In 20 years, he has found a way to be at almost every single search. He is a volunteer who gives everything to the organization. For his day job, Dougie gets up at 5 a.m. to deliver the Cape Breton Post in Sydney Mines. He often jokes with other members when they complain about walking in the woods on a search. If he can search after walking his paper route, they surely have nothing to complain about. In fact, Dougie likes nothing more than being out in the field.
In addition to finding lost people, Dougie has a reputation for finding swamps. There is a joke among the search and rescue team that if you follow Dougie you will end up getting wet. He also told me about once falling into the snow up to his neck on a search in New Waterford. In spite of these misadventures, Dougie tells me that it is most rewarding when you find someone. He does it, he says, “to help the community. I do it cause I want to. Because you’re bringing loved ones home.” After 20 years and well over 100 searches, Dougie has brought a lot of loved ones home. He is the quiet hero of Cape Breton Search and Rescue.
Dougie Hooper holds up his search and rescue scrapbook that highlights his 20 years in the organization.