The Royal Mail stamp featuring MerrickA hero of the mountains got the stamp of approval today.

Search-and-rescue dog Merrick, a labrador-collie cross from Perth is the star of the Royal Mail’s 46p stamp, which is part of a series featuring working dogs.

The Royal Mail stamp featuring Merrick 

The dog was head-hunted by the stamp’s producers when they spotted his picture on the website of the Search and Rescue Dogs Association (Southern Scotland). The photograph of Merrick was taken in the Cairngorms last winter by Tim Flach and shows the dog at work in the snow, wearing his bright red coat.

His owner Lynne Warden was contacted to ask if he could be photographed for the stamp. The photoshoot lasted five hours and Ms Warden said Merrick behaved himself throughout.

The Search and Rescue Dogs Association (Sarda) trains mountain rescuers in the use of dogs to ‘air scent’ for casualties on the hills and in other search situations. Last year, Sarda in England took part in 109 searches; the Scottish branch had 52 callouts. Sarda also operates in Wales and both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

Like their partners in mountain rescue, Sarda members are all unpaid volunteers.

Dogs have been used to assist in searches for centuries. They were used to break trails and find buried mountaineers in Switzerland as long ago as the 17th century. They were introduced into Scotland at the instigation of mountaineer and rescue pioneer Hamish MacInnes after a visit to an avalanche-dog training school in Switzerland.

Merrick started his training at the age of 10 weeks.

Julietta Edgar, head of special stamps at the Royal Mail, said: “It’s easy to forget that there’s a ‘secret army’ of thousands of hardworking dogs who make a real difference to many lives.

“I hope that this issue will help raise the profile of their important work as customers see the dogs on millions of letters and parcels every day.”

Others featured in the Royal Mail set are an assistance dog, a police dog, sheepdog, guide dog and customs dog.