Search dogs Nell, left, and Pepper. Photo: CVSRT

Search dogs Nell, left, and Pepper. Photo: CVSRT

Two long-serving members of a rescue team have retired after numerous missions.

Four-legged friends Nell and Pepper have each assisted the Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team for more than 10 years.

The search dogs and their handlers have been active both in the South Pennines area covered by the team and farther afield.

Since the late 1980s, the West Yorkshire team has had 16 search dogs among its membership, and the animals have helped with major incidents including the Lockerbie air disaster, the search for murdered schoolgirl April Jones in Wales and an operation in which a walker suffered fatal injuries in a fall from Helvellyn in the Lake District.

A team spokesperson said: “Pepper, handled by Ellie Sherwin, spent three years learning her trade, which culminated in her successfully passing a three-day assessment and joined CVSRT as a fully graded search dog in January 2007.

“She loves people, so finding them is a great game. Combine this with her favourite squeaky toy as a reward and she is more than happy. Her intensive training focused on basic obedience to finding people, ‘bodies’, hiding on a hillside and letting Ellie know by barking and leading her back to the person.

“Pepper and Ellie practised and trained virtually every day for three years and the results were incredible.

“During her working life Pepper has provided a keen nose to many searches, both in the Calder Valley and further afield.

“As well as assisting in Wales, she has had many outings to the Lake District, Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. In 2015, a major search was mounted in atrocious weather conditions by multiple rescue teams to locate a missing walker in the Lake District.

“It transpired he had fallen from the summit of Helvellyn and unfortunately did not survive the fall. Pepper and Ellie were deployed to assist fellow search teams and successfully located the man who had been missing for several days. Thankfully not everyone Pepper has found were so unfortunate: over her working life she’s had five finds, two of which were on consecutive searches. Pepper is looking forward to a long and happy retirement.”

David Warden and Ellie Sherwin with their dogs. Photo: CVSRT

David Warden and Ellie Sherwin with their dogs. Photo: CVSRT

The team said fellow collie Nell, handled by David Warden, passed her assessment in Snowdonia and joined the Calder Valley team in March 2006, a few months before her second birthday.

“She was a quick learner and took to search work very enthusiastically,” the spokesperson said. “Her first assignment was to the Lake District a couple of weeks after passing her assessment and a few months later located a flood victim in the River Swale in North Yorkshire.

“She was instrumental in locating a despondent adult on Ilkley Moor, with David providing emergency care to the casualty. Nell has always been a confident dog, happy to work at great distances from her handler and thereby searching and clearing large swathes of moorland or mountainside very efficiently.

“She retired recently on her 13th birthday, having given over 11 years of service to CVSRT.

“CVSRT would like to thank Nell and Pepper for their many years of dedication and commitment to the team and the community.”

Two other border collies are still with the team. Meg, with handler Pete Farnell, and Jack and his handler Dave Astley. A smooth-coated collie Finn is also on call with handler Stephen Garofalo.

David Warden’s new collie Wynn is in training, along with labradoodle Tinker and Simon Adams and springer spaniel Orion with Gary Smith.

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