Dumped pooch now a lifesaver

Anu was found wriggling in a sack dumped on the side of a rural Northland road.

Now the rescued canine has a future rescuing missing people.

The energetic 14-month-old huntaway border collie cross has shown he has all the basic skills that could see him become the region's first trained wilderness area search dog. Owner and outdoor enthusiast Mel Cheseldine said Anu was found in a sack along with three other puppies in a ditch by a friend. She decided to keep all four and has managed to home them all out including Anu.

Miss Cheseldine has a background - nearly 20 years - in search and rescue which started in the chilly waters of Weymouth in Britain as a 14-year-old surf lifesaver. Since then she has been involved in outdoor adventures and rescues across Europe. Eight years ago she came to New Zealand and settled in Whangarei with her partner and joined up as a volunteer with the Whangarei Land Search and Rescue team.

She reckons it's time to introduce a search dog. "I've watched them being used for years and now I have the opportunity to train a dog," she said. Anu is being trained to find people by keeping his sensitive nose in the air and smelling human scent on the wind. It's a two-year process and then there is an exam to pass to become a Wilderness Area Search Dog. The final test is three hours of tracking in the bush.

Miss Cheseldine said Anu - short for Anubis, which is the Greek name for a jackal-headed Egyptian god - was a very curious dog and and did not mind being handled.

There are only two other search dogs trained by volunteers in the North Island, based in Auckland and Wellington.

In Northland a trained police dog can be called into track but is not ideal as they are much more aggressive and sniff along the ground to track people. Miss Cheseldine said usually when people were reported missing it could be two days after they were last seen and their tracks would have dispersed.