Rescue ready

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COMPOSED: Lanza is ready to be winched into the helicopter. Photo Sam Anderson
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It was all in a day’s work for Rakaia Land Search and Rescue dogs Lanza and Buck, when they were winched sky high and flew in a large military helicopter.

The helicopter was a Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90, available when the air force assisted with two days of LandSAR training.

Lanza is just one year into her training to become a LandSAR dog; her handler is Giuliana Petronelli of Rakaia LandSAR. Buck has been operational for three years; his handler is Murray Bowden of Rakaia LandSAR.

Being suspended with your handler from a loud helicopter amidst the downward whoosh from the rotary wings may not be something every dog would enjoy, but Lanza and Buck took it all in their stride.

Petronelli said a challenging part for Lanza had been her first time moving out of the hovering machine to winch down.

‘‘This was a little unnerving for her, but after the second go and plenty of play she was happy and ready for more.’’

Rakaia LandSAR volunteer Giuliana Petronelli and her dog Lanza inside the NH90 helicopter. Photo Sam Anderson.

Bowden was just as impressed with Buck.

‘‘Buck was relaxed throughout the experience, knowing I would never put him in danger,’’ Bowden said.

‘‘If they can’t cope with these things they won’t make it as a LandSAR dog,’’ he added.

‘‘Being winched up, the shaking and shimmering of the helicopter, as well as being comfortable around people.’’

Bowden said the last time the air force had been able to assist with this type of training was in 2018.

‘‘It was an incredible opportunity to have been able to do this,’’ Petronelli said.

She has been with LandSAR for two years.

‘‘Lanza is a family pet who we have had for two years, since birth. The training is intense and has been a roller coaster.’’

She had decided to volunteer with LandSAR as she wanted to give back to the community.

Bowden said Buck had started his training at the age of 10 weeks. He said it was best to start LandSAR dog training when they were pups.

‘‘Training and assessment takes a minimum of 18 months. Once they have been certified, recertification is a yearly process,’’ Bowden said.

Buck gets help with his helmet and goggles at the LandSAR training day. Photo Alison Scarlet.

Altogether seven LandSAR groups, including Methven and Rakaia, participated in the helicopter flying exercise, alongside police.

It was held in two locations on two separate days last month, one in Mid Canterbury and the other in Waimakariri District.

LandSAR Methven volunteer Matt Schofield said about 60 people participated.

‘‘The purpose of these type of exercise are to get the LandSAR volunteers and their dogs comfortable in this type of scenario, when the pressure isn’t on because it’s a training and it’s not real.

‘‘It’s an interesting and unique feeling being winched by a helicopter,’’ he said.

LandSAR groups regularly train as individual groups with a day or weekend exercises covering topics such as tracking/clue processing training, or specific training in areas such as navigation, bush skills, cognitive impairment and first aid.

Waiting for their turn to be winched into a helicopter as part of the LandSAR training are Rakaia volunteer Giuliana Petronelli and her dog Lanza. Photo Raechel Walker.