Alison Smith and Steve Worsley with Meg and Rona

Alison Smith and Steve Worsley with Meg and Rona

Two sisters who grew up on opposite shores of Highland Scotland have joined a rescue team.

Collies Meg and Rona, and their handlers, have qualified to join searches with Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team and further afield.

The dogs were born in the same litter and, after growing up in their homes in Dingwall and Ullapool, have trained for the past year-and-a-half with Search and Rescue Dog Association Scotland.

Their owners Alison Smith and Steve Worsley are members of the Dundonnell team and both dogs and handlers have now qualified to join searches for missing people across Scotland.

Meg is Ms Smith’s first search and rescue dog, while Mr Worsley has been a member of Sarda for 14 years and Rona is the third dog to join him on the hills.

The dogs train closely with Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team, covering some of the wildest and remotest terrain in the country. This also includes the challenge of working alongside Coastguard helicopters from Stornoway and Inverness.

Team leader Iain Nesbitt said: “The addition of two Sarda dogs to our team resource is such a valuable asset and will make a considerable difference to the lives of the people we set out to assist.”

Ms Smith said: “I have been part of the Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team for three years, helping find missing vulnerable people in both rural and urban settings.

“Including Meg now means that we will be able to help the team cover wider areas quickly – especially important when the wind is howling and the rain is pouring. Being on call and travelling to remote areas can be a real challenge, but the reward of helping people and their families makes it worth it every time.”

The team said their training, relying on the dog’s acute sense of smell to detect human scent in the air, has allowed both dogs and handlers to form a highly efficient team, working in all weathers, day and night to cover huge search areas quickly.

Meeting other handlers from across Scotland for a full weekend each month, the dogs head out to find volunteer ‘dogsbodies’ and receive their toy reward. Although now qualified as novice dogs to join searches, both dogs and handlers will continue training regularly as they work towards full search dog team status.

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