Saving Lives...

John Ball with rescue dog Darcy in Chautara, Nepal


John Ball and his dog Darcy from the UK's International Search and Rescue team go to work in Chautara, Sindhupalchok District – north east of Kathmandu, Nepal.

 They are the first search and rescue team to reach the earthquake-hit district, searching for survivors and providing medical support on the scene. 

The team works with specially trained dogs that are taught to track down human scent. When the dogs find someone alive under the rubble, their bark or body language lets their trainers know. 

Each dog handler sticks with their own dogs – with whom they've built up a special trust. The dogs have to be quick-witted and love to chase toys, as that's how they are trained to do the job in times of emergency. 

John says:

“I used to have dogs as pets and was fascinated by the search and rescue teams I saw when I went hill-walking in the Lake District and Scotland. I’ve been a dog handler for 11 years.

Darcy lives at home with us in our family home. She is a highly motivated dog and constantly wants to play.

When I chose her from the other puppies I tested them all on their toy drive and Darcy stood out among all of them. She picked up her training very quickly - I was really lucky with her. 

I joined the fire service because I want to help people. I wanted to be able to come out and put into practice what we've been training for – locate someone and ultimately save a life. 

You get on with the job but you always reflect on it afterwards. You do feel humbled by the people who have lost everything but get up and carry on. 

You get a very special bond with your dog, you spend so much time with them. You need that bond because you need the trust - the dogs need to believe in you because they go into dangerous places.” 

The specialist team is drawn from 15 different fire and rescue services from across the UK.


On 25 April, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the country, killing more than 5000 people, and injuring thousands more. 

The UK is responding to Nepal's request for international help, sending search and rescue teams, emergency medics and logistical support.


Picture: Jessica Lea/DFID