Jet goes to school
3 July 2012
Teachers have been known to get lost before, but not five times in one day. And certainly they have not had the experience of being found five times by the same hard working search dog – but that’s exactly what happened recently at Gossops Green Primary School in Crawley, West Sussex.
The School was holding its annual Healthy Schools Week, and following on from the successful launch of Junior Neighbourhood Watch earlier this year, Head Teacher Dawn Martin invited Crawley Neighbourhood Watch to give 30 minute community safety presentations to all of the 504 children in the school over two days.
Whilst the oldest children watched gripping presentations about the serious and long lasting consequences of becoming involved in crime, those aged 7 and below listened to stories about road safety. They heard about the experiences of a postman trying to deliver letters in the snow and nearly getting run over, because he crossed the road in the wrong place and forgot to stop, look and listen; the adventures of Lucy Mouse on her first trip from the country into the town, and how Emma broke all her eggs.
The children in Years 3-4, ages 8-9, had another special treat. Crawley Neighbourhood Watch arranged with Lowland Search Dogs Sussex for one of their members, Mick Denness, and his very friendly pet Jet, a 5 year old black flat coated retriever, to come along to the School and give a demonstration of what an experienced search dog can do. Jet was an instant hit with the children, not to mention the staff! After all, who wants to do boring old school lessons when you have a really friendly, playful and intelligent dog eager to lick anybody who gave him the chance? Mick is an Environmental Charity Manager by day, and has been a member of LSDS since 2008. As well as being a Level 2 handler, Mick is also a SAR Team Leader. Jet has achieved the Gold award at the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme, as well as being accredited to the Level 2 (Hasty) standard by Lowland Search Dogs.
Mick and Jet took each class in turn into the school playing fields. There Mick explained that Jet was a family pet, who in his spare time put on a special harness, complete with bells, a light and sometimes a camera, and looked for missing people whenever the police asked, day or night and including Christmas Day. He had taken 2 years to train, and has recently passed demanding tests again to qualify him for a further two years of searching. Whilst Mick was talking, one of the other adults quietly slipped away and “got lost” somewhere out of sight. Jet was then asked to do his thing. After a fast sprint around the grounds at up to 17 mph, using his sensitive nose he quickly zoomed in on the first “missing” person he found, vigorously shook his bells, gave a trademark bark and rushed back to tell Mick, to huge cheers from the children. The children asked lots of questions, and were thrilled to take it in turns to gently stroke Jet and find out for themselves how soft his fur is.
When some of the youngest children came out for their break, they were delighted to find that Jet was quietly resting in the shade but still perfectly happy to be fussed again, especially when he got to play with his favourite toy! Liz Mulvey, a popular Teaching Assistant, was first to be ‘found’. Speaking afterwards she said: “I can well imagine what it must be like to be lying out alone somewhere in a forest, perhaps injured and unable to move, wondering if help would ever come. Then, the sound of jingling bells running up to you tells you that rescue is at hand.”
Derek Pratt, Vice Chairman of Crawley Neighbourhood Watch and also Chairman of the Neighbourhood Watch North Sussex Search Team, said: “We spent two days at Gossops Green Primary School, where we were warmly welcomed by the school and their very well behaved children. In the real world, when police ask for help to search for missing people, often LSDS and the NHW Search Teams both respond, because each has their own specialist skills. The dogs can do a hasty search, sometimes at night, and the Search Teams can do a thorough search, usually in daylight. Sometimes we train together, and this helps to hone all of our skills.“ He added: “This was my first experience of being ‘found’ by a search dog. Maybe because I had been playing with Jet earlier in the day, when he arrived alongside me at a rate of knots I got a special extra-curricular ‘Jet wash’ welcome from my furry friend!”
Lowland Search Dogs Sussex supply nationally qualified search dog teams to support the police in looking for missing persons. A non-profit making voluntary organisation and registered charity, they provide an emergency on-call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call outs are exclusively via the police through a call out co-ordinator, who is able to be contacted by the police and other Lowland Search teams who require additional dog teams any time of the day or night. Most of the dogs within the team are air scenting dogs, taught to find any human scent within an area. Due to the way air scenting dogs work, the teams work predominately in rural areas, but are also able to work in some urban environments such as parks and private grounds. The team also has a small number of scent specific trailing dogs, who are currently being trained, who will be more able to work within urban environments. For more information please see http://www.lsdogs-sussex.org.uk/ .
Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Search Teams were established over ten years ago, following the Sarah Payne tragedy, to help the police, when requested, primarily to look for missing vulnerable persons. This could include elderly folk with medical problems who have wandered off, children disappearing into the countryside, or anyone who has suffered an accident in a remote place. In more recent times they have expanded their capabilities to assist the police in other situations. For more information about the North Sussex Search Team please visit their website https://nsst.org.uk/ .
Neighbourhood Watch is about promoting good citizenship and greater public awareness through Neighbourhood Watch groups, increasing public participation in the prevention and detection of crime, reducing fear of crime, improving police/community liaison and increasing community safety. In Sussex, Neighbourhood Watch has about 126,000 member homes, and over 6,000 of these are in Crawley.
Dawn Martin said: “We would like to say a huge thank you to Derek Pratt and his team for organising all the Crawley Neighbourhood Watch visits to school this week – they were all useful and interesting, but it has to be said that Jet was the favourite!’
John Wright, Chairman of both Crawley Neighbourhood Watch and the Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Federation, commented: “We have just celebrated National Neighbourhood Watch Week, which included our 30th Anniversary. One of Crawley’s contributions was to help out Gossops Green Primary School with this very worthwhile and fun project. It’s the first time we have done this; it was a challenge, but we enjoyed every minute.”