Rescue dog retires after 11 years saving lives up Britain’s highest mountains

The Lake District's oldest working search and rescue dog has retired, aged 14-and-a-half, after more than 10 years of locating lost and endangered walkers and climbers.

Clever border collie Skye was working as recently as this month after taking part in hundreds of treacherous expeditions in her time.

The brave canine spent 11 years working side by side with proud owner John Leadbetter.

Mr Leadbetter said while she was a family pet, she would leap into action as soon as she heard his pager go off.

He said: "She switched into search dog mode and knew she was working".

Skye has been involved in searches in Cumbria as part of the Lake District Mountain Rescue Searchdogs.

But she has also worked in Lancashire, the Pennines and Scotland and helped search for a man who was lost for three days on Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain.

She had her final job on September 11 looking for a missing woman who was found safe the next day.

Mr Leadbetter said Skye's retirement was a bitter sweet occasion.

He said: "Like so many fellow handlers, it is one of the hardest decisions ever to make, to retire your search dog from the callout list.

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"It was not easy with a dog who would still love to be out there and searching, but although the head and heart are willing, the body is decidedly weaker and searching takes too much of a toll nowadays.

"Here's to a happy and full-filled retirement full of fun, exploration, enjoying the hills."

Skilled search dogs can pick up human scent on the wind and have saved thousands of lives.

Mr Leadbetter explained: "The dog just sees it as a game of hide and seek.

"One dog will do the work of between 15 to 20 people on the ground across different terrains."

Training a search and rescue dog is a mammoth undertaking and it takes a huge amount of effort to get the animals up to assessment standard.

Before becoming a trainee dog handler people have to volunteer for six months before beginning to train their dog.

Dog handlers are trained differently depending on whether they will work in a mountain and lowland area.

So-called air scenting dogs search routes and paths for human scent particles before returning to their handler to indicate they have located a person.

Pooches can also be trained to look for drowned victims or to find a specific scent.

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