Mountain Rescue dog honoured for 11 years of service
Mountain Rescue search dog Skye has been award the PDSA Order of Merit for devotion to duty and service to society.(Stuart Walker/PDSA/PA)

A retired search dog who was believed to have been the oldest working Mountain Rescue dog in the UK is being honoured for her service.

Border collie Skye’s dogged devotion saw her carry out 200 searches during 11 years working in the Lake District, before retiring in 2020 aged 14.

On Thursday, Skye will be given the PDSA Order of Merit, described as an “animal OBE”, for her work.

During her service, Skye and handler John Leadbetter, 49, carried out searches in all weathers to help locate missing people.

Mr Leadbetter said: “Skye means everything to me, she’s my best friend on the fells and we’re life-long partners.

Her long and distinguished career has not only seen her protect and help people in danger, her ambassadorial work has helped to raise important funds and increase awareness

PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin

“To see her receive the PDSA Order of Merit is a truly humbling and touching experience, and it’s a wonderful recognition of the time and hard work that search dogs and their teams dedicate to mountain safety.

“To say we’re chuffed is an understatement!”

Skye is the 36th animal to receive the PDSA Order of Merit, which was set up by the charity in 2014 to recognise animals for their exceptional contribution to society.

PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said: “We’re incredibly proud to be honouring Skye with our PDSA Order of Merit.

“Her exceptional skills and outstanding devotion above and beyond that of normal companionship make her a very worthy recipient, and we feel this is a fitting tribute to her lifetime of dedication and hard work.

“Her long and distinguished career has not only seen her protect and help people in danger, her ambassadorial work has helped to raise important funds and increase awareness of the incredible work these Mountain Rescue teams perform.”

Mountain Rescue dog Skye at a fundraising event in 2019 (PDSA/PA)Mountain Rescue dog Skye at a fundraising event in 2019 (PDSA/PA)

Skye began her training as a puppy with Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team and went on to qualify with the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dog Association in 2009.

She attended searches all over the Lake District as well as going further afield to Lancashire, the Pennines and Scotland.

Now almost 16, she is enjoying her retirement with Mr Leadbetter and his family, who say she still loves to get out on the hills and fells but at a slightly slower pace these days.

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