Meet the dogs (and
A team of volunteers and their dogs are on standby 365 days a year to help track down vulnerable missing people in Bucks. CAMILLA GOODMAN talks to the chairman of Search Dogs
DEDICATED: Volunteer Gaz Elliott is raising money for the charity by travelling to the Himalayas to trek to Mount Everest Base Camp and climb Island Peak
WHEN a person goes missing, it is a very distressing time for all their loved ones who are desperate to find them as quickly as possible. Helping friends and family to do that is a group of kindhearted volunteers who work behind the scenes with their furry friends to locate missing vulnerable people in Bucks.
Search Dogs Buckinghamshire, which is part of the national organisation Lowland Rescue, is made up of about 50 volunteers who are available around the clock. The charity’s main role is to help police searching for missing or vulnerable people within Buckinghamshire and it also assists other Lowland Search Dog units when requested.
The volunteers are called when police need help to search for missing and vulnerable children and adults who might be suicidal, suffering from dementia or other conditions.
The team’s dogs are highly trained to search for human scent and are effective at searching rural areas and woodland. The ultimate goal of both dog and handler is to locate the missing person and reunite them with their family.
“We’re similar to Mountain Rescue,” chairman Paul Westwell explained.
“But we’re also different because Mountain Rescue look for missing people who generally want to be found and they are injured. So they do a lot of rescue work and not so much searching like us. The type of people we search for are suicidal or people with dementia, that’s the majority of people we look for and occasionally children too. We’re looking for people who don’t want to be found or who don’t know they’re missing.”
Mr Westwell said the police rely on volunteer run organisations such as Search Dogs Buckinghamshire to help find missing people.
He added: “The police don’t have the same capability we do. When a person goes missing they get the helicopter up for a bit but beyond that it’s really down to volunteer organisations such as ourselves as a partner of Thames Valley Police, and
VOLUNTEER: Jasper I think in the future, with the police looking at spending cuts, more and more of these tasks will be carried out by volunteer organisations.”
Mr Westwell, who works as a telecommunications manager, became involved with the charity about five years ago when he got two English cocker spaniels Ozzy and Jasper and was looking for a job for them to do.
“I got involved and I became hooked,” he explained.
“I love the dogs, I love the team, I like being outdoors and it’s a fantastic