Lake District Mountain Rescue dog Skye awarded PDSA Order of Merit for 11 years of service

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.

Skye will be given the PDSA Order of Merit, described as an ‘animal OBE’, for her work.

The Westmorland Gazette: HONOUR: Skye, a border collie search dog, wearing a medalHONOUR: Skye, a border collie search dog, wearing a medal

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

The hardworking canine began her career as a puppy with Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team. She then worked as a trainee and graded searchdog with Duddon and Furness MRT before joining Langdale and Ambleside MRT and then Kendal MRT.

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

“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!”

The Westmorland Gazette: BUDDIES: Skye with handler John LeadbetterBUDDIES: Skye with handler John Leadbetter

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

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.

The Westmorland Gazette: TEAM: Mountain Rescue dog Skye at a fundraising event in 2019TEAM: Mountain Rescue dog Skye at a fundraising event in 2019

“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.”

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.

The Westmorland Gazette | News