Li­brar­ian and dog a star search team

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - HAMISH MCNEILLY

Emma Mil­burn and her dog Dart are on a mis­sion to find the miss­ing.

And the pair, Mil­burn, a Dunedin li­brar­ian, and Dart, an en­er­getic bor­der bearded col­lie hunt­away cross, are good at what they do.

So good that they have helped find nine miss­ing peo­ple since Dart be­came a qual­i­fied LandSAR airscent search dog in 2013.

‘‘She has had a few finds,’’ Mil­burn said. ‘‘If a dog only finds once in her ca­reer that is still amaz­ing, you have helped one fam­ily.’’

Last month, the pair found the body of miss­ing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe in the Catlins Con­ser­va­tion Park.

Lowe’s widow, Liz Car­roll Lowe, paid trib­ute to the ef­forts of Mil­burn and Dart in help­ing bring clo­sure to the griev­ing fam­ily.

‘‘It al­lowed us to grieve his loss rather than be­ing left with the nag­ging doubt of not know­ing,’’ she said.

‘‘We will be eter­nally grate­ful to Emma and the other searchers for their huge ef­forts, putting their own lives, fam­i­lies and jobs on hold to help our fam­ily.

‘‘They are amaz­ing peo­ple and we are in awe of and have the deep­est re­spect for all of them. Emma and Dart will re­main for­ever in our hearts as we owe them so much.’’

For Mil­burn, drop­ping ev­ery­thing at a mo­ment’s no­tice to head out into the wilder­ness is a part of life.

Af­ter an in­ten­sive pe­riod of train­ing, Dart be­came one of the 12 work­ing wilder­ness dogs in the coun­try. The 24/7 on-call na­ture of the job means that when Mil­burn is at her day job, Dart is in her ve­hi­cle. and

The team can be any­where in the South Is­land within a few lower hours.

In this re­gion she works along­side other three op­er­a­tional dogs, sup­ported by po­lice and dozens of LandSAR vol­un­teers.

Un­like track­ing dogs, which fol­low a ground scent where a per­son has walked, an air­borne dog like Dart de­tects hu­man scent in the air.

Dart had a nat­u­ral abil­ity, and was a phys­i­cal dog with a ‘‘high drive’’, Mil­burn said.

‘‘She is not a dog that gives up and she re­mains fo­cused.’’

One mem­o­rable job, which was also the pair’s first, in­volv­ing find­ing two young men who had be­come lost in the bush at Ou­tram, near Dunedin, af­ter an abortive raft­ing trip us­ing flota­tion de­vices.

An­other in­volved lo­cat­ing an Aus­tralian tourist, miss­ing on Ben Lomond, near Queen­stown, for two days.

Sergeant Richard Pant­ing of Dunedin po­lice said Mil­burn and Dart were ‘‘very pro­duc­tive’’.

The three op­er­a­tional dog teams based in the city were a mas­sive help. ‘‘They put in an astro­nom­i­cal ef­fort.’’

MCNEILLY / STUFF HAMISH

The search and res­cue duo of Emma Mil­burn and Dart have helped to find nine peo­ple.

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