Rescue dogs work through the night to locate missing person

A rescue dog at the scene of the search in Co Waterford. Photograph courtesy of SARDA.

A team of search and rescue dogs took part in an overnight search during the weekend for a missing person in Co Waterford who was later found safe and well.

The Search and Rescue Dog Association of Ireland (SARDA), a voluntary organisation linked to Mountain Rescue Ireland, deployed four dog teams after gardaí alerted search and rescue organisations of a missing person in the Fenor area.

Eadaoin O’Gorman of SARDA attended the search along with Murphy, her four-year-old border collie who is a qualified mountain rescue dog, and said they were on the scene by 4am.

The dogs work really well at night and in the dark, because what human searchers would miss with their eyes, the dog teams will always find with their nose.

“We’ll start very close to the last known location... the dogs can cover ground very, very quickly, so they say that a search dog is equivalent to about 30 foot searchers,” she said.

The search was also attended by gardaí, the South Eastern Mountain Rescue Association (SEMRA) and Tramore Coast Guard.

Ms O’Gorman said the rescue dogs got to work quickly, covering “a huge amount of ground very quickly.”

“The dogs work really well at night and in the dark, because what human searchers would miss with their eyes, the dog teams will always find with their nose.

"So they’ll go into the woods, they’ll go around the lake, there was a reservoir area up there as well, we covered that too. They’ll pretty much follow their nose and they’ll follow any human scent that they find.”

The search operation concluded shortly before 9am when the missing person was found by Dungarvan gardaí, with a SARDA Facebook post reporting: “Dog teams returned home tired but happy that the missing person was found safe and well.”

Murphy the search and rescue dog. Photograph courtesy of SARDA.
Murphy the search and rescue dog. Photograph courtesy of SARDA.

Ms O’Gorman said the rescue dogs’ work is “incredibly demanding,” with teams based all over Ireland often travelling long distances to attend rescue missions.

The organisation is volunteer based, with handlers training their dogs alongside their day jobs.

“They’re our own dogs, we usually get them as pups, or maybe we might get them a little bit older, we train them up, all voluntary, and it takes approximately about two to two and a half years to qualify one of the dogs," she said.

Ms O’Gorman said this search operation was the group’s twenty-ninth of 2020, making for a busy year alongside her day job as a puppy programme supervisor for Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland.

Murphy is also kept busy with rescues: "Three weeks ago she found a missing elderly gentleman... he went missing at around 1am and we found him shortly after half three, so once the dog teams are called in they’re incredibly successful in covering large areas very quickly."