Wilson family pet is fully trained mountain rescue dog
A St Johnston family pet has this week joined an elite group of trained mountain rescue dogs that will work all over Ireland.
Garret Wilson from St. Johnston hailed his dog, a 19-month Border collie named Cody, as a ‘bright thing.’
Cody this week became a qualified mountain rescue dog after an intensive training course that lasted almost 18 months.
Speaking this week Garret Wilson said: “There are six mountain rescue dogs in the whole of Ireland, but funnily enough there are two of them based in Donegal.
“But that doesn’t really matter as we are on call to go anywhere on the island.”
Garret himself is a member of Donegal Mountain Rescue and Cody is a part of Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA).
Garret described the training: “Cody would have started his training when he was about three months old.
“The first thing he had to learn was what is called a stock test. This involved training Cody to ignore livestock and cattle.
“It all becomes a game for Cody and all he wants is to get a tennis ball.
“Once he has mastered the stock test we then had to go to Newcastle in County Down for registration and then he began his search training.”
Garret said that the training could be quite intensive and maybe up to six sessions a week.
He said: “Initially Cody would have been involved in short training maybe just up to two or three minutes and that gradually built up over the months until at the end the search sessions could have been as long as two hours.
“Again it had to be like a game for Cody, a game of hide and seek and as Cody is primarily a family pet my two boys had great fun hiding for Cody to find them.
“The last few months we spent in the Urris Hills and Mamore Gap carrying out searches.
“This would involve someone going out to hide. Now we would tell them the general area to go but we would not know where they went and it would be up to Cody to find them.
“Cody would be trained to roam up to 300 metres away from me and once he found the person he was searching for based on the human scent he would immediately turn and come back and find me.
“Then he would start barking at my feet and would continue doing that until I would tell him ‘show me’ and then he would bring me back to the person.”
Garret explained that searching with dogs had many advantages: “Unlike humans, dogs can operate at night and in fog as they are not dependent on sight but scent.
“They are much quicker as well in that in say a hilly area where a human would have to check carefully the dog can check in no time at all.”
As a member of the Donegal Mountain Rescue Garret said that his interest in hill walking had led to him joining the mountain rescue.
He added: “People should remember that all this is voluntary and there is a lot of work involved with training with SARDA every months and the like.
“But at the end of the day Cody is a family pet who has now been trained to rescue people.
“We can be called out anywhere on the island and we will be away.”