Finn enjoying the Scottish mountains last year Finn enjoying the Scottish mountains last year

Finn did well

08 Mar 2019

Yesterday saw the start of Cruft’s and a time of year when dogs of all shapes, sizes and uses hit our screens. For CVSRT, and many other Lowland Rescue and Mountain Rescue England and Wales teams, dogs trained as Search Dogs provide invaluable additional support year round.

Since the late 1980’s, CVSRT has been fortunate to benefit from a total of 16 dogs belonging to team members, and our four-legged friends have assisted with many missing person searches. One of those 16 dogs is Finn, a handsome Smooth Collie dog, who sadly passed away after a short illness in February.

After some time to grieve the sad loss of his special mate, handler Stephen Garofalo has written some words in tribute to Finn and the journey they shared. RIP Search Dog Finn.

“It all started in October 2007. Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue Team, of which I was a member, staged an exercise on television to try and attract new members. A couple of days later I received a phone call from Team Leader Andy Simpson saying he’d received a letter from Colne dog breeder, Pat Howarth, offering a Smooth Collie pup for training as a Search Dog. I accepted the offer.

The litter arrived on the 29th of December and on the 14th of February I picked my dog, Finn. He was a tri-coloured pup and I liked the fact that he was of a good size and affectionate. The time came where we took him home. He instantly took over the cat bed and during day light hours was very happy with his new surroundings. At night he missed his mother. Anyone who knew Finn will tell you that he was very vocal and he spent the small hours sharing his grief with the entire street! The solution was to spend that first week sleeping on my back with my right arm outstretched to the pup and woe betide me if I changed position!

I had a few problems in 2008. My wife left me, my old search dog Roy died, and I lost my job. I suppose things might have been worse, but Finns training suffered because I didn’t give him the time and attention a young dog requires. But, as with all things, I was able to recover and by January 2011 I arrived at a Search and Rescue Search Dogs Association (now Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England) assessment with a good strong dog. Finn was fast and rangy with a strong bark indication. He liked people and he definitely liked to bark - not a bad combination in a Search Dog. Consequently we had an easy assessment and got onto the call-out list with a strong pass.

We then completed two operational searches, but on the second search he managed to cut his right hind leg. The first thing I noticed was a pool of blood on a stile platform he had just jumped over. A close inspection of the injury revealed cut tendons, fortunately the ones that gave his foot shape and not the ones that propelled him. Luckily he only needed stitches and not a cast. However, I then had three months with a bored idle dog, but he did make a full recovery.

We attended seventy four searches over the years. Some were very high profile and some were in beautiful surroundings. It saddens me that he never had a find but at least he never missed anyone which is more important.

I noticed over this winter that he had slowed down and on the Sunday before Christmas he had a fit. He then had another on the 16th of January. Blood and urine test at the vets revealed nothing that could cause a fit, but on the 28th of January he had a fit in the evening and then another in the small hours of the morning. On Tuesday morning we took him to the vets, where he had another fit and the vet noticed that some of his liver enzymes were high and wanted to scan his liver before making a decision on how to treat the fits. He later phoned me to say they had found a tumour on his liver and that they were struggling to control his fits. Even if they could control his fits, between the drugs which would be needed to treat them and the weakened condition of his liver, he would only have a few months to live. I instructed the vet to put him down and that was it.

Everyone one thinks their dog is very special and I am no exception. Finn was my mate, a constant companion who came everywhere with me. I have many memories of days on the hill with him - we travelled the length and breadth of the country together. He's been everywhere from Land’s End to the North coast of Scotland. He had a very expressive face, could bark with his mouth full and in his youth he was fast enough to catch grey squirrels. He was well socialised and was good with other dogs, children and cats. He has sired two litters of puppies and has grandchildren.

On the down side he soon worked out that jabbing people in the crutch with his nose was a sure way of getting attention and his bottom served as a spring which bubbled forth almost continual dog wind.

We're going to miss him, but on the bright side I am in the process of acquiring one of his great grandsons and hope to train him as a Search Dog. Assuming the mother is pregnant the pups will arrive in April and I will have a new dog in July. Finn did well.”

Finn and handler Stephen on their successful assessment in 2011

Finn with CVSRT Search Dogs Jack and Pepper

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© 2014 Calendar photography by Hanners
© 2015 All other photography remains the property of Calder Valley Search & Rescue Team.