Canine hero honoured for rescue from storm

Rauour the labrador working for Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue made his first find on the hills last week. Photo by Stuart Cobley
Rauour the labrador working for Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue made his first find on the hills last week. Photo by Stuart Cobley

A hero is being honoured today - young labrador Rauour, who helped his mountain rescue team find a critically injured woman in a blizzard.

Three-year-old Rauour, from Selkirk, has been feted by vet charity PDSA, and presented with his PDSA Commendation by the charity’s Vet Surgeon, John Faulkner, at the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team’s new Melrose base.

Rauour, an auburn-haired Search and Rescue dog (his name means ‘red’ in Icelandic), was trained by Search and Rescue Dog Association Southern Scotland, and works as part of Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team. He received his award for finding a ‘high risk’ casualty in storm-force conditions back in February 2015, following what had been a fruitless three hour search by a 20-strong human team on foot.

The PDSA Commendation is part of the charity’s Animal Awards Programme, which celebrates the unparalleled devotion and enrichment that animals bring to people’s lives. Rauour is the 88th recipient of the award.

The Tweed Valley Search and Rescue team was called out on February 28 last year to find a missing person who was thought to be at considerable risk. A Met Office amber weather warning was in place and blizzard conditions had already set in around the Innerleithen area.

The team had been searching the area on foot, which included dense woodland and steep inclines, for three hours before Rauour and his handler, John Romanes, were dispatched to search an area by Leithen Water.

Rauour immediately started searching deep inside a thick conifer forest. Two minutes into his search, he signalled to John by barking enthusiastically who followed him into the undergrowth.

Rauour had found the casualty, a woman trapped in the hole of a tree root, with only her legs visible. She was unconscious and suffering advanced hyperthermia. The horrendous weather conditions, darkness and position of the victim meant that foot crews had passed by her location hours earlier without finding her.

Thanks to Rauour’s powers of scent detection, the casualty was found in the nick of time. John and his search partner Roddy administered emergency and called the Royal Navy helicopter to the hillside, to airlift her to hospital.

John said: “Rauour’s detection skills really came to the fore that night. His role as an air scenting search dog was more effective than a 20-strong team performing a line search on the ground. Without him finding the casualty when he did, the outcome could have been very grave indeed.”

John Faulkner from PDSA presented Rauour with his award. He said: “PDSA has a long tradition of honouring animals and Rauour’s story really epitomises the value that animals bring to our lives. There is no doubt that without Rauour’s actions the situation would have been very different.

“The work of search and rescue dogs across the country is absolutely vital – their skills are priceless and Rauour’s story serves as a reminder of just how lucky we are to have these dogs here to help us.”