A SEARCH and rescue dog has received a rare award for saving the life of a depressed man after he went missing from home.

Meg, a five-year-old border collie and her handler, Des Toward, were the stars of a ceremony at Sandown Park racecourse, near London, where they were awarded a gold medal by the Pro Dogs group.

The pair, members of the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Rescue Team, have been involved with a number of life saving rescues in the North-East.

Their fourth successful rescue mission in a year came to the attention of Pro Dogs, which highlights the bravery and efforts of dogs around the country, when Meg was nominated by Chief Inspector Dave Carroll, of Durham Police.

Last December, Meg and Des, from the Teesdale village of Cotherstone, found the 51-year-old man, who was suffering from depression and had gone missing from his home, in Crook.

Within 20 minutes of starting the search, in woodland, near Brancepeth, County Durham, Meg had picked up his trail and soon after discovered the man, who was suffering from hypothermia.

Mr Toward, 37, said: "If Meg hadn't found him when she did, the man would have died. There are several other people who we have found in the nick of time. She really is a remarkable dog."

Last year, Meg also found a lost walker in Osmotherley, and then sniffed out an elderly woman, who was discovered hiding under a bush, after disappearing from her Newton Aycliffe home.

Her third rescue came in October, when Meg found an elderly man from Kirkbymoorside, near Scarborough, who was wandering in an isolated area at 3am