A RETIRED search dog who was thought to be the UK’s longest operational mountain rescue dog is being acknowledged for her service.
Skye, a border collie, carried out 200 searches over her 11-year career in the Lake District before retiring in 2020 at the age of 14.
Skye will be awarded the PDSA Order of Merit, sometimes known as a ‘animal OBE’, for her efforts.
Skye and her handler, John Leadbetter, 49, searched for missing individuals in all weathers during her service.
The dedicated canine started her career as a puppy with the Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team. She then worked with Duddon and Furness MRT as a trainee and graded searchdog before moving on to Langdale and Ambleside MRT and subsequently Kendal MRT.
“Skye means everything to me; she’s my best friend on the fells, and we’re life-long partners,” Mr Leadbetter added.
“Seeing her receive the PDSA Order of Merit is truly humbling and touching, and it’s a wonderful recognition of the time and hard work that search dogs and their teams devote to mountain safety.”
Her lengthy and illustrious career has seen her not only guard and assist persons in peril, but her ambassadorial work has also helped to generate vital funding and promote awareness.
Skye is the 36th animal to be awarded the PDSA Order of Merit, which the organisation established in 2014 to reward animals for their remarkable contributions to society.
“We’re incredibly proud to be honouring Skye with our PDSA Order of Merit,” said PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin.
“Her exceptional skills and exceptional devotion above and beyond that of ordinary companionship make her a very deserving recipient, and we believe this is a fitting tribute to her lifetime of dedication and hard work.”
“Her long and distinguished career has seen her not only protect and help people in danger, but her ambassadorial work has also helped to raise important funds and increase awareness of the incredible work these Mountain Rescue teams perform.”
Skye began her training as a puppy with the Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team and later qualified with the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dog Association.
She went on searches all across the Lake District, as well as Lancashire, the Pennines, and Scotland.
She is now almost 16, and she is enjoying her retirement with Mr Leadbetter and his family, who say she still enjoys being out on the hills and fells, albeit at a somewhat slower speed.