A MOUNTAIN rescue search dog proved she is never off-duty when she alerted her owner to an elderly man who had fallen by a river.

The man, thought to be in his seventies or eighties, suffered head and chest injuries after falling by the River Tees in the Demenes area of Barnard Castle yesterday morning (Saturday, August 9).

Shielded by dense undergrowth he could have gone un-noticed for hours were it not for the actions of Isla, an off-duty mountain rescue search dog.

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By chance, Isla’s owner, Tony High, a member of Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team, and his family had decided to walk the faithful border collie by the river that morning.

It was not long before Isla, five, sensed something was wrong.

Mr High said: “At one point Isla disappeared into dense undergrowth and started to bark as she returned to me.

“The way she did this was an indication to me that she had made a find.

“I followed her over a fence and into the undergrowth to discover an elderly man lying in a ditch near the river."

The man, who is believed to have been picking up rubbish on the riverbank, was injured and very confused.

Mr High immediately contacted the team and two further members and an advance medic attended the scene.

Monitoring the man’s condition throughout, the team set up a stretcher and carried him from the undergrowth to where an ambulance was waiting.

Peter Bell, leader of Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team, said: “Tony, his partner and two children did a great job in looking after the man before we arrived.

“I have no doubt that had search dog Isla and Tony not found the gentleman away from the well trodden paths he would have been there for some considerable time, if not overnight, and he would have been in a much more serious condition than when he was found. “

Mr High and Isla completed a two year training and assessment programme organised by the Search and Rescue Dog Association in 2012.

Since then they have been involved in numerous rescue missions and, last year, they assisted in the search for missing schoolgirl April Jones in North Wales.

For more information about the team, a registered charity, visit twsmrt.org.uk