Donation a lifesaver

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Search and Rescue dog handler back in swing of things

Queenstown’s most experienced rescue dog handler is to keep on saving lives after help from a local adventure attraction.

Canyon Swing has raised $6500 and put up another several thousand dollars for Wakatipu Search and Rescue to buy the latest lifesaving gear.

Brent MacDonald, a dog-handling volunteer for 15 years, says he’d planned to pull out of SAR but the donation changed his mind.

He’s now confirmed buying a new pup, due on August 19, which will keep him on the job for another 10 years or so.

“It’s great just to have this support instead of bashing one’s head against a brick wall.”
Till now, dog handlers have supplied their own equipment.

Now MacDonald and fellow handlers Heidi Hofmans and Vladka Slivova will have on hand new rescue equipment such as high-tech transceivers, crampons, snowshoes, ice axes, harnesses and avalanche probes and shovels.

“It will also [improve] our response times,” he says.

Each year Canyon Swing chooses a cause to support for a month.

Sales and marketing manager Claire Stewart says SAR was selected because as an outdoor company itself, Canyon Swing could see a vital need.

The company donated sums paid by punters for extra jumps and also provided donation boxes, supplemented with support from suppliers Small Plane and Southern Approach.

Local SAR fundraiser Ed Halson says $6500 is a huge donation in tough times, especially since the rescue group no longer qualifies for diversion money paid by petty  first-time criminals.

Wakatipu SAR averages 24 callouts a year – dogs respond to people lost in avalanches and in
the bush.