Own­ers) who make a dif­fer­ence

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FOCUS -

Search Dogs Bucks vol­un­teers are avail­able 24 hours a day, all year round and worth­while thing to do. The first time I had to re­spond I thought if we weren’t out there look­ing for this per­son then no one is, you get a real sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

How­ever, the prob­a­bil­ity of find­ing a miss­ing per­son is about one out of ev­ery 40 searches. Some of Mr West­well’s fel­low vol­un­teers have found miss­ing peo­ple, but Mr West­well is yet to find some­one.

He said: “A lot of the time you go out and you don’t find the miss­ing per­son be­cause ei­ther they turn up some­where else, the po­lice find them or they’ve gone back home. But you’ve still been out there look­ing and you know that you’ve helped and find­ing out the per­son has been found is won­der­ful.”

The char­ity has about 50 vol­un­teers who have been on searches all over Bucks and of­ten train in places such as Amer­sham, Penn Wood, Wen­dover Woods, High Wy­combe and Ayles­bury.

How­ever, out of the 50 only about 25 are op­er­a­tional and are the peo­ple who go out on searches. The other 25 are ei­ther in train­ing or do be­hind the scenes work such as fundrais­ing.

Be­com­ing an op­er­a­tional vol­un­teer and search dog is no easy task. All of the vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing the dogs, are trained to na­tional stan­dards set by the As­so­ci­a­tion of and Search d Res­cue. efore a mem­ber can be­come op­er­a­tional they are trained to be com­pe­tent in a num­ber of dis­ci­plines, in­clud­ing search tech­nique, first aid, nav­i­ga­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Train­ing typ­i­cally takes be­tween three to six months for a dog han­dler and 12 to 24 months for a dog be­fore it reaches the stan­dard re­quired for a na­tional as­sess­ment. Once qual­i­fied both the dog han­dler and dog are re­assessed ev­ery two years to en­sure that they still achieve the re­quired stan­dards.

“It’s achiev­able, I don’t want to put peo­ple off,” Mr West­well promised. The char­ity has seven qual­i­fied dogs, with only a to­tal of about 50 across the coun­try.

Mr West­well said the most com­mon breeds of dogs used are springer spaniels, cocker spaniels, col­lies and labradors.

Mr West­well, whose dog Jasper is qual­i­fied, said to make the grade, the dogs have to search 50 acres in 90 min­utes and find all the miss­ing peo­ple.

“That’s a huge area to search and they can pick-up hu­man scent from about 150m to 200m away. If they find a per­son they come back and tell you, nor­mally they jump up and down be­cause you need a clear sign, like a jump, be­cause a lot of the time it’s night time and it’s dark and then you give them a spe­cial treat.”

Mr West­well’s other dog Ozzy is in train­ing to fol­low scent trails, which will help the team with things like what di­rec­tion a per­son went in.

Mr West­well, who lives in Berk­shire, said the group is al­ways look­ing for peo­ple to help with train­ing by hid­ing.

He added: “We’re al­ways look­ing for peo­ple in­ter­ested in hid­ing out­side for an hour or two, it’s re­lax­ing and quite fun!”

Mr West­well said the group is also look­ing for more peo­ple to go on searches as well as search dogs.

He said: “I think if you like the out­doors then it’s a re­ally worth­while way to spend your spare time. It’s very re­ward­ing and it’s a great or­gan­i­sa­tion to sup­port.”

The group is also al­ways look­ing for dona­tions to keep it go­ing.

Mr West­well added: “All our funds come from fundrais­ing, dona­tions and spon­sor­ship. We don’t re­ceive money from any­where else. Funds are vi­tal and our main costs are peo­ple need­ing wa­ter­proof coats, torches, safety equip­ment, ra­dios, col­lars for the dogs and just gen­er­ally run­ning costs, so it costs a rea­son­able amount of money to keep go­ing.”

One of the char­ity’s dog han­dlers Gaz El­liott, who is in the armed ser­vices based at RAF Hal­ton, will be part of a 14 strong team in May trav­el­ling to the Hi­malayas to trek to Mount Ever­est Base Camp and climb Is­land Peak.

He is rais­ing money for Search Dogs Buck­ing­hamshire. To spon­sor him visit https://my­do­nate.bt.com/fundrais­ers/ hal­ton­tothe­hi­malayas.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the char­ity visit www.search­dogs­bucks.org.uk or www.face­book.com/Search­Dogs­Bucks.

I love the dogs, I love the team,

it’s a fan­tas­tic and worth­while

thing to do’

Photo by Mark Bent­ley

PART OF A TEAM: Search Dogs Buck­ing­hamshire work with Thames Val­ley Po­lice to search for miss­ing or vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple

TEAM WORK:

NOT JUST ONE MAN AND HIS DOG: Paul West­well, pic­tured with Jasper, says vol­un­teer­ing for the search dogs char­ity is very re­ward­ing

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