My name is Tom Gilchrist and anything in the outdoors suits me – climbing, ski-ing, paddling, cycling or walking. Living in Fort William it’s all on my doorstep (literally! ) and I love living here. Happily sentiments shared by my wife Julie and my two daughters.
I have been a dog handler with SARDA Scotland for over 25 years and Meagaidh, is my third search dog. I have been involved with Scottish Mountain Rescue longer than that – I was a member of the Ochils Mountain Rescue Team in my teens and was on my first call out with them in 1973! I have been a member of Lochaber MRT for nearly thirty years and I have lost count on how many call-outs I have attended. I think about six or seven hundred.
Being a dog handler in Lochaber puts me in the epicentre of user induced avalanches areas – Glencoe, Ben Nevis, Creag Meagaidh and more recently Aonach Mor. I have attended, with my dog, over thirty avalanches where casualties have been buried and this is the saddest part of MR for me. I was an avalanche forecaster way back in the early days of SAIS and this is an interest I have maintained. Currently I am investigating how human scent transfers though a maritime snowpack.
What would I like to see in the future? More search dogs in the Glencoe/Oban / Lochaber areas so that I can retire! I would also hope SMR continues to flourish, as I think it is an excellent organisation.
Search & Rescue Dog Association Scotland
We are proud to be part of Scottish Mountain Rescue. Search dogs are a vital tool the Police and Mountain Rescue Teams use to locate missing persons. Dogs are trained to use their acute sense of smell to detect human scent in the air. Together, the dog and its handler form a highly efficient team. Dogs are particularly useful as they can work in all weathers, day or night, without loss of speed and they can cover huge areas quickly. Of particular importance is their ability to find casualties when they are out of sight or hidden, for example hidden within vegetation, or sheltering behind a rock or buried under snow.
Our role is to train mountain rescue personnel and their dogs to become a qualified search dog team. We then deploy these teams at the request of Police Scotland and Mountain Rescue Teams to support searches for missing persons. Our handlers are on call 24/7 and ready for deployment anywhere in Scotland. Training of dogs starts at an early stage with puppies going through a familiarisation process, then learning to find volunteer casualties and indicating this to their handler. They then move to search larger areas and different types of terrain, developing over 2 to 3 years to become a fully qualified team able to locate those in need.
We welcome new members, so, if you feel you have what it takes, go to our web site to find out more about entry requirements.
To find out more go to www.sarda-scotland.org
Follow us on Facebook @SearchRescueDogAssociationScotland