Scottish mountain rescue dogs get their paws on prestigious award

Rogue and Bowie, with their husband-and-wife handlers, were recognised for their achievements.

Two rescue dogs along with their handlers received a unique award recognising their achievements as part of the 20th Fort William Mountain Festival on Thursday.

Rogue, a Belgian Malinois, and Bowie, a Border Collie, along with their husband-and-wife handlers, Paul and Sam Noble, earned the esteemed award after both teams passed an extremely challenging Search & Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) Scotland assessment.

Normally, it takes two years to fully train search dogs and their handlers before their first official rescue callout, but the team from Braemar in Aberdeenshire was able to complete the exam in just one year.

Last year in March, Sam and Bowie clinched the Madras Trophy, an accolade bestowed upon the best novice search dog team that is deemed outstanding.

Dave MacLeod

Just a month later, Paul and Rogue undertook their first call-out, making history as only the second SARDA Scotland dog team to find a missing hillwalker on their first official search call-out.

Stu McIntyre, training officer at SARDA Scotland, said: “SARDA Scotland is delighted to congratulate Sam and Paul Noble and their dogs Bowie and Rogue on receiving the prestigious Fort William Mountain Festival 20th Anniversary Award. This is fantastic recognition for their outstanding contributions to mountain culture.”

With Paul having summited Mount Everest twice, both he and Sam are seasoned mountaineers and members of the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team, as well as Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) observers.

They said: “We are honoured to be awarded the special 20th Anniversary Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture by the Fort William Mountain Festival.

“Mountains are our life, and we’ve been fortunate to complete many routes and summits that have been difficult. Becoming a search dog team has been, in some ways, a similar challenge.

Dave MacLeod

However, it’s not just the mountains where the prize-winning duo helps out.

“Search dogs are called upon by the mountain rescue team in certain events. So that’s normally lost people, or in the event of an avalanche,” explained Paul.

“Police Scotland may call upon the search dogs, and that might be for people who have gone missing locally, vulnerable people who have maybe wandered off.

“So, the dogs can cover a lot of ground, perhaps more than people in certain conditions.”

It takes a lot of dedication and effort from both the handler and the dog to become a truly effective team.

“You’ve got to work with small steps, little steps. Get all imprinted, move up to the next step, imprint it. You’ve got to be consistent. Lots of praise, lots of reward,” said Sam.

“Bowie responds to play and toys, balls, so he’s not a treat dog. Rogue, she likes treats. But you have to find something that they really, really, really want. And that becomes the emphasis for the training.”

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