KATHMANDU, Oct 19: An elderly lady from a Rasuwa village was reported missing on October 8th from somewhere between Thadepadi and Gosainkunda. Following requests for help, authorities in Kathmandu deployed a search and rescue dog in the area where Putali Sherpa was believed to have disappeared.
Gyaljen Sherpa from Gopti, assisted by the dog named Fredo located Putali some four hours after she had gone missing.
Gyaljen, the assistant dog handler, took the initiative for the search and rescue operation as the owner of the dog, Dan Jones from Switzerland, was in Kathmandu for a meeting with Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) officials.
Fredo was given a garment of Putali Sherpa to sniff and after that he began his search. He found Putali at dusk in a worsening weather.
Putali Sherpa said, “I was cold and afraid in the forest, and then a red dog appeared from nowhere.”
Gyaljen was obviously happy as the dog located her. “Keeping pace with Fredo was the hardest part of the search and rescue operation,” he said.
Putali's son was so grateful that he had the biggest rooster in the village slaughtered and fried up with rice. Fredo made a short work of this.
Dan was overjoyed when he got the news of the woman being found after a lull in the bad weather.
He said that finding the missing woman so early was unexpected as the sensory experience for a dog is different between the Swiss Alps, where he trained Fredo, and the Himalaya.
Interestingly, Fredo is not of a breed which is used in search operations. Fredo is a Ridgeback, or Lion Hound.
Dan now plans to train the local people to train local dogs to work as search and rescue dogs. “If the weather is bad, or the missing person is deep inside a forest, or if it is dark, or all three, choppers are unable to lead search and rescue operations,” he said.
"'Right now we are working for the NMA. But in the hills we are operating independently. I hope that success stories like this one will encourage the local people to train their dogs,” he added.