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

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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

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