PICTURE SLIDESHOW: Derbyshire search dog Megan hangs up her collar
A treasured pooch who was commended by the Chief Constable of Derbyshire for finding a murder victim has hung up her collar after working as a search dog.
Much-loved border collie Megan retired on Boxing Day at the age of 12 following nine years of valuable service.
During the course of her career with Buxton Mountain Rescue Team, Megan has averaged around 18 call-outs a year and searched and cleared hundreds of kilometres of land in all weathers, day and night.
She has made seven operational finds – two of which were potentially life-saving.
In 2011, Megan discovered the body of 25-year-old Jia Ashton in Sleetmoor Woods near Somercotes – three days after she was last seen leaving her job at chocolate-maker Thorntons.
The find resulted in a major police investigation and the prosecution of David Simmonds, of Derby Road, Heanor.
He pleaded guilty to murder at Nottingham Crown Court and was jailed for 28 years after what the judge described as a ‘sustained violent and brutal attack on a young woman’.
Megan was commended by the Chief Constable of Derbyshire Constabulary for her efforts.
Her handler, 39-year-old Dave Mason, of Bolehill near Wirksworth, said: “Everyone at Buxton Mountain Rescue Team will miss working with Megan but it’s time for her to retire, it’s what is right for her.
“She’s been excellent at her job and has been of great value to the team.”
He added: “Megan will remain with me and the rest of my family during her retirement and will continue to attend team fundraising and public events.
“She’ll also continue to attend training sessions with novice dogs, passing on her experience.”
Dave is currently in the process of training a new search dog, Griff, who will have some big paws to fill.
Megan was born in Buxworth in December, 2004.
At the age of 14 weeks she went to live with Dave who started the process of training her as an air-scenting search dog.
Megan successfully passed her first assessments in July, 2007, and started work immediately.
Ian Hurst, of Buxton Mountain Rescue Team, said: “The search and rescue dogs in the Peak District play a key role.
“They operate using an air scent and can pick up a human scent yards away; this is particuarly valuable in poor conditions. Megan has shown this consistently over the years.
“Dave, as Megan’s handler, plays an important part in deploying her in the right conditions and locations.
“It is said that search dogs are as valuable as 25 mountain rescuers on the ground due to their scenting facilities – but we always back them up with personnel following.
“A word about Dave – all dog handlers are fully qualified mountain rescuers and to take on a dog is a great additional committment in terms of many hours of dog training and assessments and the dog lives as part of the family.
“We are sure that Griff, who will replace Megan, will be just as valuable an asset to the team.”
• Buxton Mountain Rescue Team is made up of volunteers and totally dependent on donations from the public. For more information about the organisation and to donate, visit www.buxtonmountainrescue.org.uk.