THEY say man’s best friend is a dog.
In the case of a missing dog-walker and Border Collie Ty, that was certainly the case.
For the man’s life was saved when four-year-old Ty had his first success as a search and rescue dog.
Ty, who is owned and trained by Shelley man Steve Ward, found the missing man in the ironically-named Happy Valley area of Stockport.
He had been missing for hours and was desperately close to death, suffering from deep hypothermia.
“There’s no doubt Ty saved his life”, said Mr Ward, 58, who is on his third search and rescue dog after previous years of working with Dru and Bryn.
“The paramedics said they had never come across anyone as cold and his body temperature did not register on their thermometers.
“We had been called in to help the search and Ty found him. We managed to get him warmed up eventually and he survived”.
Ty had been training for the role since he was an eight-week-old puppy. Those games of hide and seek with Mr Ward would later become disciplined obedience lessons and specialist search training.
Ty qualified as a fully-fledged search and rescue dog at national trials in the Lake District in January.
It means that he and his handler, who runs Blackburns outdoor wear shop in Moldgreen, are on call 24 hours a day to help out anywhere in the UK, along with fellow Huddersfield rescuer Ken Sloan.
Mr Ward said: “People use Labradors or Springer Spaniels but I prefer Border Collies. Our job is to make a search of an area very quickly.
“These dogs are like Exocet missiles; they can do the work of up to 30 human searchers in a fraction of the time.
“They are air scenting for traces of a missing person and Ty can work as much as 500 metres away from me. If he finds something he barks and then runs back to me and barks again.
“We get called out regularly and Ty gets used in some pretty nasty places; places like old quarries or dense woodland that cannot be searched by humans.
“The search dog community is very close-knit. We have 50 or 60 members across the country and we are constantly in touch with each other.
“We call out each other to help out at any time of the day or night.
“It’s like having a wolf; he has that natural hunting instinct that is so vital”.