Border Collie Bryn has worked as a search and rescue dog alongside his handler Steve Buckley since he was a puppy.
Steve requested a rescue dog for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, where he worked as a firefighter, after witnessing the incredible work of search dogs while on a rescue mission in India following the 2001 earthquake. Bryn was handpicked from a litter of puppies due to his nature and intelligence.
Steve and Bryn started training and in 2005, at the age of four, Bryn became fully qualified and UKISAR graded.
In 2009, they became one of only four UK dog teams to attain the International Rescue Dog Organisation’s ‘mission readiness test’. The test consisted of seven searches over 36 hours, a 10km march, dog first aid and working at height.
Alongside his work with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service Bryn has been deployed to building collapses, missing persons’ searches and gas explosions throughout the UK.
His international work involved working in Japan (2011) after the earthquake and tsunami, and in Nepal (2015) following the devastating earthquake which killed and injured thousands.
Bryn’s ability to search large areas for casualties, with greater speed and efficiency than his human counterparts, was invaluable. It minimised the need for risky interventions when faced with precarious and volatile rescue situations.
As well as helping find casualties within disaster areas, Bryn’s skills have also helped reunite families with lost loved ones, allowing them to be laid to rest.
Later in their career Steve and Bryn also worked for Avon Urban Search and Rescue team. Bryn retired in May 2016 after an outstanding 11-year career.
Commenting on the award, Steve Buckley said: “Bryn has been a dedicated and exemplary search dog throughout his career. He never wavered from his mission and those working with him had complete faith in his detection skills. His skills have been used to set training standards across the world.
“Dogs like Bryn only come along once in a lifetime and I’m incredibly lucky to have worked beside him for the past 11 years. Receiving the PDSA Order of Merit is a fitting end to his distinguished career. I am so proud of him.”
The PDSA Order of Merit was presented to Bryn by PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin.
Jan said: “I’m proud and honoured to award Bryn his PDSA Order of Merit. His support for teams in dangerous search and rescue situations has made a profound difference to the lives of people across the world. His incredible talent and skills are truly rare.
“Today he joins an honourable line-up of animals that have displayed outstanding devotion and companionship in various walks of life. Although very different, they are all worthy recipients of the PDSA Order of Merit.”
Head of Operational Policy and Assurance at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, Gus O’Rourke, added: “Bryn and Steve have been an integral part of our International Search and Rescue Team, always ready to fly out to wherever in the world they were needed. Bryn’s deployments haven’t been without incident; in Japan, where Steve and Bryn went to help in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Bryn received serious life-threatening injuries while searching through the debris. He was treated by a field surgeon for temporary respite until he could get expert veterinary treatment.
“The pair have also been at the forefront of training other dogs and handlers, both nationally and internationally, so the great work done by these teams will continue and evolve. Many, many people the world over owe their survival to the brave, courageous work done by the search and rescue dog teams and I am so proud of both Bryn and Steve for their massive and dedicated contribution. I wish them both a long, healthy and happy retirement.”
The PDSA Order of Merit recognises animals that display outstanding acts of devotion above and beyond normal companionship. It also recognises animal acts which represent the special relationship that exists between animals and humans. Bryn is the seventh canine recipient of the honour, which has been awarded 17 times since its institution in 2014.
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