A RESCUE dog is about to return the favor as proud trainers say he is one of their best students in training to be a search and rescue dog.
It’s been a tough road for Bailey – a two-year-old Golden Labrador Retriever.
The big-hearted dog was taken in by the Dog’s Trust after it was found stray, with some describing it as what appeared to be a lost cause.
But since being picked up from the cold streets, Bailey’s life has taken a remarkable turn at eighty.
Now the dog who was rescued appears to be the one who will save him as he seeks to beat the odds and become a rescue dog for the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.
It only took a phone call to see Bailey’s fortunes change forever from homeless to housed with a new career to kick off.
Louise Crawford, who works for the Dogs Trust as the Animal Care Program Coordinator, contacted UK International Search and Rescue and other services to ask if anyone is looking for a new search dog.
That’s when Graham Currie, a dog handler and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service Urban Search and Rescue Team Leader, ran into his newest recruit.
As a member of UK International Search and Rescue, Graham heard Bailey’s story and decided to take a trip to Loughborough to see it.
Graham said: “I had been looking for a dog for just under a year when Louise posted details of Bailey, so I went to Loughborough Dogs Trust the next day.
“After testing Bailey’s training for a tennis ball and verifying that he had no aggression towards other dogs or people, I offered to take him for a six week trial run.
“The most important thing was to get him into the van because he associated it with being taken to a resort, but within 24 hours he was taught to associate it with fun.
“By day three, I was 95% sure it was him.
“In the barn of the vehicle there was a rugby ball on a ledge above the gym weights and he wouldn’t give up until he got it – that’s the kind of determination we got. are looking in a research dog.
“I was reluctant to take a Labrador because they can be greedy and distracted with food, and I was looking for a Springer, Cocker Spaniel or Sprocker Spaniel bitch as I found them to be less stubborn and easier to train.
“Bailey has that motivation and he’s not greedy, he would take a bullet on a food bowl every time. ”
Bailey made the trip from Loughborough to the Urban Search and Rescue Team base in Lexden, Colchester.
According to Graham, Bailey is on the road to success, having excelled in search and rescue activities.
Over the past month, Bailey attended training, which resulted in training in buildings and rubble piles with police and national assessors.
Graham added: “At first we were hiding tennis balls to see if he could find them without being afraid of rubble.
“He’s one of the most natural looking dogs I’ve ever seen – he’s like a mountain goat! Nothing bothers him, he has no fears or phobias.
“A police trainer and colleague said if we could clone this dog all of our problems would be solved.
“A dog that cost us £ 185 has turned out to be the most incredible creature.”
Already Bailey has a reputation with the firefighters and now Graham plans to use Bailey to succeed eight-year-old Cocker Spaniel Jarvis.
Jarvis is a live scent search dog for service, but has been posted to retirement.
Bailey will become one of 20 dogs used by USAR teams across the country, and he will be part of UKISAR, traveling to disaster areas around the world.
It usually takes 18 months to three years to train a dog, but Bailey, whose nicknames are “Beast from the East” and “Polar Bear” because of his size, could be “on the run” as early as April.
Graham said: “He’s already doing a ‘blind search’, using his nose to find people.
“He searches the buildings so methodically; he’s going to go in through the first door of the building or hallway, check all the parts attached to it, and go back into the hallway and do the same for the next door, and so on.”
Bailey has also fitted in well with the current generation of grassroots four-legged friends.
Graham has three other dogs – Jarvis, the ECFRS Search and Rescue Cocker Spaniel, Fizz, the ECFRS Fire Investigation Sprocker Spaniel, and Ailith, who is Celtic for Alice, a spaniel. 12½ year old springer from the Scottish Highlands.
He’s a pet, but he’s been taught to do basic research.
Graham added: “We treat them like dogs. They can go out to play, hunt, swim in rivers and the sea, but as soon as the search harness is in place, they know they have work to do.
“We landed on our feet with Bailey – and so did he, because he has a nice house now.”
After watching Bailey go from misery to wealth, Louise Crawford is over the moon and says she is happy to have spotted Bailey’s “fantastic” potential and is delighted to see him so happy.
She said: “Despite being found to be stray, he is a confident dog, comfortable entering different environments and situations, happy to travel in vehicles and most importantly, he enjoys chasing a ball which is a fantastic reward for him.
“He does an amazing job and he is truly loved by Graham and truly part of his family. We are thrilled and super proud.”