Tributes were paid to a hero mountain rescue dog – who saved an OAP from dying from hypothermia.
Bracken, 13, died this month after coming into his role at Keswick Mountain Rescue unexpectedly due to his searching skills.
The adventurous pooch even flew in helicopters and had a special hoist to get him in the chopper, as well as a foil-lined sleeping bag.
The tricolour Collie was described as ‘gentle and affectionate’ and loved people.
He was adopted by handler Elly Whiteford in August 2010 aged 18 months, and was intended to be rehomed, but got his feet under the table at her home near Keswick, Cumbria.
In 2014 he qualified as a search dog and retired in December 2020.
Elly, who already had two dogs before adopting Bracken, said: “He came out with us and played search games which he loved, especially when I ran around and then hid.
“He would race to find me and bark, then roll around on the ground playing tug.
“He quickly became very good at searching and could even find my mobile phone, pager and keys which came in handy.
“It was a natural progression to train Bracken as a search dog and he passed his introductory obedience test in May 2012.
“He loved searching and was so excited when he found, he would bounce about and bark to get his reward.
“Bracken qualified as a search dog in July 2014 following a gruelling final mountain assessment that took us to the tops of the Coniston fells for nearly five hours.
“Bracken loved being out in all weathers, just being out anywhere though especially in the high fells.
“He taught me patience and working as a team, each dog is different, and you have to really work together to get the understanding and the subtle communication needed to work the fells in all weathers.
“He loved water, swimming and just lying in it, any stream or boggy puddle would do.
“Bracken particularly loved winter, on the hills in the snow, he was in his element and accompanied me skiing and snowshoeing.
“On our winter training, he was a strong digger using his big paws to dig down for people buried under the snow and then using his weight to barge into the hole in eagerness to get his tug toy.
“He has been on boats, on chairlifts and flown in helicopters, all which he took in his stride.
“So long as he was with me, he trusted me to look after him.
“After 5.5hrs of searching in west Cumbria on a cold Sunday in December, he found an elderly gentleman who had been missing since the Friday lunchtime.
“The gentleman, who was in a severely hypothermic state, but alive, was airlifted to hospital and to be with his family.
“It is an amazing feeling when your dog finds, I was so proud of Bracken.
“Having no physical presence or feeling him close to me, his quizzical and loving looks, the paw, the gentle nudge of his nose and not being able to stroke him is the hardest part.
“He was my constant companion and partner, treading the fells with me, on mountain rescue callouts and searches for missing people.
“Our bond was deep, he was my heart and soul. I miss him and he will always be with me.”