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Wednesday, 12 May 2021 17:01

A Damp Dog Story - reflections on a callout

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It was a rainy day in late October and my wife and I decided to take our dog for a walk at Parke near Bovey Tracey in Devon. On the way there I thought I’d better remind her that I was duty search manager that week, and as things turned out it was just as well.

We had a lovely rainy walk in the damp woods at Parke and returned to the café to warm up and dry off. At 3pm we had just finished our drinks when I received a text from Devon & Cornwall Police asking for assistance from the rescue team. I called them back to discover that a 28 year old female had gone out for a dog walk somewhere in the 4 mile stretch between Widdecombe-in-the-moor and Haytor and had become lost in thick fog. The lost individual wasn’t contactable but the person who raised the alarm was told me that she had gone out at 2pm planning for a short walk and was wearing a waterproof jacket and had a woolly hat. She had no extra clothing, additional food or any form of shelter. By this point she had been out in the rain, wind and fog for 1 hour.

I tried again to phone the missing individual but there was still no signal. As wet people get cold quickly, especially in October, I called out the rescue team and arranged a meeting point half way along the road where she might be.

My wife then drove me, with our dog in the back, through the thick fog up to the meeting place. It was still raining heavily. At the meeting point there was no mobile signal so we drove back along the road to the first parking area with a mobile signal. I managed briefly to talk to the missing lady before the signal dropped out again but there was enough signal to exchange text messages. One of the key bits of information I received was her car registration, as luck would have it, we were parked next to her car. With the location of her car and the beginning of her dog walk now known I sent a message to the rescue team moving our meeting place to the car park I was in beneath Saddle Tor. 

Team members then started to arrive and I transferred to a team members vehicle to organise the next phase of our search. The first search team was quickly dispatched into the fog with instructions to use the horns we carry to make noise for the lost individual to listen out for. I sent a text to the missing individual to listen out. A second search team was then dispatched closely followed by a third who would enter the search area from another direction. No sooner had the third team been sent on its way then the lost individual sent me a text saying she could hear the sounds of a horn. Around 5 minutes later the first search team reported over the radio that they had found the lost dog walker and her dog, both a bit cold and wet but otherwise uninjured and  were walking them back to our meeting point.

At 4:20pm, just as the daylight was failing, they arrived back into the car park. Apart from being a bit cold and wet she was in remarkably good spirits. Her boyfriend appeared shortly afterwards to take her home. The rescue team were stood down at 4:30pm 90 minutes after we had first been contacted by Devon & Cornwall Police.

Searches are not often this quick or this straightforward, but it reminds all of us who go for dog walks in Dartmoor that it’s worth keeping one eye on the weather and to carry some spare clothing and some extra food, just in case…

Search Manager - Craig

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