Inverness rescue dog turns mountain rescuer

Gem with her owner Pete Crichton. Picture: SSPCA
Gem with her owner Pete Crichton. Picture: SSPCA
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A DOG left languishing in an animal rescue home as an unwanted pup is proving to be a real gem by helping rescue others on Scotland’s mountains – and has gone on to become an award-winning searcher.

Gem, a three-year-old collie, went into care at the Scottish SPCA rehoming centre in Inverness after her previous owner no longer wanted her.

She had been kept in a shed and was very timid on arrival.

After several weeks in the kennels she was spotted by Pete Crichton and his wife Alison, from Lochluichart in Ross-shire, who offered her a new home and a second chance.

The Crichtons soon found that games of hide and seek with Gem revealed a natural talent for searching people out, so Pete enrolled Gem in the Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) Scotland dog training scheme.

Earlier this year she passed all her assessments to become a fully fledged mountain rescue dog.

Pete, 55, has been delighted with Gem’s progress, saying: “She is very enthusiastic about her job and life in general and she’s great friends with our other dog Rusty.

“I’ve had search dogs for 25 years now and Gem’s my fourth dog, but the first one to come from a rescue centre.

“She’s been on several searches since she qualified and she’s already showing great promise.”

In fact, she won the Madras Trophy for best novice dog on the course at SARDA’s annual dog trials at Glen Coe this year.

Gem joins 21 other dogs on SARDA Scotland’s mountain rescue team and she is now on-call for any emergency situations where casualties need to be found.

Gem uses her extremely keen sense of smell to ‘air-scent’ for people in difficulty in the hills and she is also trained to assist in avalanche searches when climbers or skiers have been buried by snow.

Elaine Floyd, manager of the Scottish SPCA’s Inverness Centre, said: “We’re truly delighted that Gem has gone on to find herself such a wonderful family who have spotted her potential and helped develop her amazing abilities.

“Collies are highly intelligent dogs who have very active minds and bodies and Pete and his family have recognised this and given Gem a great career as well as a very loving home life.

“Gem’s story is inspiring and although she may have been one person’s unwanted pet, she’s now gone on to become a life saver to countless others.”