Retiring Fire Service Search and Rescue Dog receives Guard of Honour

On Thursday 30th May, a very special member of our Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team received a Guard of Honour in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

Frankie, a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois, has been a dedicated member of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s USAR team for the past six years, and this week, she is retiring from the service.

Frankie was 10 months old when she was initially brought to England by the Dogs Trust after being found as a stray in Ireland.

Her adventure with the service started back in September 2018 when Frankie was officially the first Belgian Malinois breed ever to be assigned to a UK USAR Team.

The firsts did not stop there! Frankie was Tyne and Wear’s first-ever full-time Search and Rescue dog.

After four months with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), an energetic Frankie jumped into her training with a six-week initial course with Northumbria Police, followed by a USAR Canine assessment and an Open Area High Risk missing person’s course, which she passed with flying colours.

Over the six years, Frankie amassed thousands of invaluable training hours, all under the guidance and stewardship of her handler, Watch Manager Steve Carr.

WM Carr describes his working bond with Frankie as humbling, unbreakable, unconditional, and respectful. He said: “Frankie has always been one of the most important tools in our USAR armoury, as she can find and indicate the location of a casualty in minutes.

“This is something that could potentially take the team hours, if not days, if the person was unconscious, unresponsive or even entombed.”

WM Carr continues: “Frankie’s role has been imperative to firefighter safety, as she can navigate rubble and collapsed structures without causing the potential of secondary collapse endangering firefighters and the trapped casualties.
“Over the past six years, I have loved every minute of my time with Frankie. There has been some blood, sweat, tears and tantrums, but it has all been worth it.

“I will miss Frankie being by my side.”

Early in her career, Frankie suffered a fitness blow when she was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, which is quite common in active dogs in this profession. But after an assessment by her vet, she was given the green light to continue life with the service.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Stewart Nicholson said: “One of the most important elements of the fire service is teamwork, especially in some of the most hazardous environments our USAR team encounters.

“Over the past six years, Frankie has played an important role in that team, and her specialist skills have always been second to none.

“Watch Manager Carr and Frankie have developed a formidable partnership that has been a credit to TWFRS. We all wish Frankie a happy and healthy retirement.”

To mark Frankie’s retirement, she will be presented with a special certificate featuring a montage of her achievements.

Frankie intends to relax and enjoy her retirement alongside her furry best friend Merlin, who will be picking up Frankie’s full-time Urban Search and Rescue baton at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

Frankie may be retiring from duty, but she will still be showing her face from time to time and saying hello to her pal, Merlin.

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