Why going to the dogs makes such good scents

Not all emergency workers or carers are human, as MEGAN TITLEY discovers after meeting some of the county's most amazing hounds, who work as assistance dogs, rescue animals and trackers.

Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 2:00 pm
Guide dog owner Robert Greggor with Angel

From helping with the washing to searching for missing people and even solving murders, Lancashire’s assistance dogs are hard-working and hugely talented.

The county is home to hundreds of specially trained dogs, from guide dogs and assistance dogs who support blind people or those with health condition to the highly trained searched and rescue dogs.

Guide dog owner Robert Greggor, 24, says his two-year-old dog Angel was a Godsend.

LIFE-SAVING DUO: Search dogs Mij and Floss.

“Angel is just a little star, she is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “The question I get asked the most is how does she know where you’re going but its not her job to know where I’m going, I have to know the way.

“Her job is just to stop me at the kerbs, walk me round street furniture like benches and make sure I don’t walk into the bollards.

“Being able to take my best friend wherever I go is amazing, she’s with me 24/7. She comes into lectures with me and she’s a fantastic little character as well, very cute and very calm.

“My mum even says she has dimples when she smiles.

PHENOMENAL: Alison Nicholson with Floss and Iain with Mij,

“When she’s off the lead she’s just the most gorgeous, bouncy little puppy but when she’s in her harness she clicks into professional mode. It’s much less stressful having a guide dog than having a cane.”

Elaine Wall has known Sparky, her Border Terrier, since he was born. In fact she was even involved in his training to become an assistance dog.

Elaine, who is 48, has osteoporosis and walking longer distances and bending down can be a challenge for her.

Now, after all these years Sparky has retired from supporting Elaine because he has epilepsy.

PHENOMENAL: Alison Nicholson with Floss and Iain with Mij,

“Having Sparky just gave me that confidence to go out,” she said. “People seeing a dog with a jacket on is a bit of an ice-breaker really.

“If I go out without him its just 10 times harder. It’s just that little extra support that makes a difference.

“Having him has made a huge impact and I’m really grateful.

“He would put the washing in the washing machine, he will fetch the phone, open doors, pick up anything I drop like my keys or wallet, put rubbish in the waste bin and he even comes shopping with me.

PHENOMENAL: Alison Nicholson with Floss and Iain with Mij,

“He’s done very very well, if I had a fall or anything he would sit and bark until someone came to help me. I’m lost without him, at the moment it’s difficult because he retired. I don’t think he understands it but he still loves to do the washing.”

And dogs do not only work in the domestic sphere. Collies Mij and Floss are retired search and rescue dogs. They both worked alongside team members at the Garstang-based Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team.

The two clever dogs, which belong to Iain and Alison Nicholson, have searched through towns and across mountains for missing people.

Welsh Collie Mij, 14, was a scent-specific trailing dog, meaning that she was trained to follow the scent of a person through any terrain from town to mountain, 24 hours or more after the missing person had left a known point.

Iain said: “Generally a piece of the missing person’s clothing was used to give Mij the scent of the person she was looking for.

“Mij worked over 200 searches in her career, and found 14 missing people during that time.”

ADORABLE: Guide dog Astley at around six months old.

Border Collie Floss, 11, was an Open Area Mountain Search Dog and would search open areas of hillsides looking for missing people. An open area dog can do the work of 20 trained team members, and so is a valuable tool on a search.

Iain said: “A dog’s nose is a phenomenal tool for searching as it’s so much better than the human nose as anyone with a dog will tell you.

“Search dogs will be called to many searches most people will not hear about. Others, such as the April Jones search in Wales which Alison and Floss attended, are big news items and continue for many days.

“These searches the dogs get called to range from missing people in the urban outskirts of towns, to missing walkers in the Lake District and beyond.

“Living locally, and working with the local mountain rescue teams, both Mij and Floss were involved in many searches in Lancashire over their careers.”

The hunt for April Jones was the largest police search in UK policing history, with hundreds of volunteers. Five-year-old April disappeared on October 1, 2012, after being seen getting into a vehicle near her home.

LIFE-SAVING DUO: Search dogs Mij and Floss.
PHENOMENAL: Alison Nicholson with Floss and Iain with Mij,
PHENOMENAL: Alison Nicholson with Floss and Iain with Mij,
PHENOMENAL: Alison Nicholson with Floss and Iain with Mij,
ADORABLE: Guide dog Astley at around six months old.