Librarian and dog a star search team
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.’’
The search and rescue duo of Emma Milburn and Dart have helped to find nine people.