On the trail…

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‘‘GOOD JOB’’: Ashburton dog handler Chris Pansters and his dog Goose, pictured in the high country near Arthur’s Pass. PHOTO JANE DUNN PHOTOGRAPHY
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Rescue dog handler Chris Pansters of Ashburton says he and his dog Goose are no heroes.

The pair hit headlines after Goose picked up the scent of two missing walkers lost at Little Mt Peel.

As a member of Rakaia Land Search and Rescue, Pansters and the three-year-old German Shepherd had been among those searching for the overdue walkers for several hours in the dark, overnight Friday the weekend before last.

The Farmlands rep and dadof-two said he had had phone calls from people thrilled to read of their search success, but it felt ‘‘a bit strange’’.

‘‘I don’t do this for accolades,’’ Pansters explained. ‘‘I do this for love of what we do. If we can do our part to bring home the lost, missing and injured, that’s enough,’’ Pansters said.

Goose was unaware of all the attention.

‘‘As long as he gets fed each night, he’s pretty happy.’’

In the case of the two missing walkers, they were found by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, huddled in the scrub near the summit of Middle Mt Peel, shortly after Goose narrowed down the search area. The pair were airlifted out about 3.30am.

Police were pleased at the time to report on the ‘‘successful outcome’’.

Other rescuers on the job included South Canterbury Land Search and Rescue and Aoraki police SAR squad.

Pansters and Goose were the only dog and handler team on that particular search. The pair are one of only two operational LandSAR handler and dog teams based in Mid Canterbury. The other team is Murray Bowden, also of Ashburton, and his dog Buck. There are 16 teams nationwide, which between them are called out on average to a search every three days.

Bowden, who is chair of New Zealand Land Search and Rescue Dogs, praised his colleague for the good results achieved that night.

‘‘In this case Chris has done a really good job, he’s turned up and done what he’s been asked to do.’’ 

DEDICATED: Ashburton dog handlers Chris Pansters (left) and Murray Bowden, with their search and rescue dogs Goose and Buck.
PHOTO SUSAN SANDYS

Bowden said he and Chris Pansters and their dogs were ultimately only a small part of the expertise on any given search.

‘‘It’s always quite satisfying when you are able to do what you are trained for really,’’ Bowden said.

Bowden added training was a big part of what dog handlers and their canine charges did.

Dogs started at the age of eight to 10-weeks-old. They undertook 1000 hours of training with their handlers each year, becoming operational at the age of 18 months to two years.

Soon members of Rakaia Land Search and Rescue would be fundraising, as the two handlers aimed to attend North Island assessments and get new dog harnesses.