Meet the brave Springer Spaniel trained to enter disaster zones with mercy crews – and who even has his own uniform, including boots and goggles.
Mac, aged three years, is an English Springer Spaniel trained by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to go into collapsed buildings to search for casualties.
Although Mac and his companion, Diesel, also a Springer Spaniel, are based in Scotland they could be sent on international rescue missions.
Diesel is now ten-years-old, so the fire service wanted to train a sprightly dog to help.
Born in Suffolk, England, Mac was taken to Portlethen, Aberdeenshire, aged just eight weeks old to start training with a specialist dog handler.
Crew manager Gary Carroll, 48, said Mac’s agility allows him to enter unstable buildings without the risk of causing further damage – known as ‘secondary collapse’.
The bright Spaniel is trained to pick up the scent of a person breathing, as well as listening for shouts for help.
Proud Gary said: “He can enter areas where there are a lot of rocks and slabs.
“He can even enter unsteady buildings.
“This is because of his weight – he doesn’t cause what we call a secondary collapse.
“He can cover areas a lot safer than firefighters can and not disturb as much debris.
“I went for this type of breed because of its size.
“If I have to lift him into an area, he is light.
“He can also fit into small holes too.”
Having already trained Diesel, Gary said he was in no rush to get Mac up to speed.
He said the brown-and-white Springer, who qualified in July, thinks it is ‘all a game’.
Gary trained Mac at home, with his wife hiding and the dog sniffing her out.
He added: “Some casualties are easy for him to find but it all depends on the situations as some casualties can take longer to be found.
“We’ve had him since he was eight-weeks-old, so to get to this stage is a real proud moment.
“The fire service and my wife have helped him with the training.
“My wife would hide in different places and he would then find her and get the reward.
“He looks for casualties by using his nose.
“If the person is unconscious, the best thing we have is the dog’s nose because he can smell that person breathing.
“It’s the air scent he is looking for.
“He will pick anyone shouting for help or someone unconscious.
“If someone is deceased then this is not the type of dog for them, there is a different type of dog that the police use.
“He is only trained to detect where living people are.”
His reward is a tennis ball, so he thinks if he finds where that person is trapped and smells their scent he will get the reward.
Special boots protect Mac’s paws from broken glass, while goggles keep dust out of his eyes.
Mac and Gary are always on call, unless they are on holiday.
Dad-of-two Gary added: “To train him, it’s all a big game for him.
“His reward is a tennis ball, so he thinks if he finds where that person is trapped and smells their scent he will get the reward.
“We allowed him to play with the toy for months and one day we took and hide it.
“Naturally, he’s annoyed and wants it back but the toy is only returned when he barks – that’s how we build his play drive.”