It is with great sorrow that USAR Dog Gemma passed away today at the grand age of 18 years and 5 months.

Gemma was an extraordinary search dog and a special companion. Very rarely would we be parted, until her retirement in 2009.

She continued to come to work, still thinking that she was operational. Until she realized that she could have a lay in! She would then open up her eyes and acknowledge my presence before going back to sleep, especially if it was an early morning start, whilst Abby and Maya would be running around waiting to get out the door.

Here are just a few of her milestones in her life:

  • Picked up by me, out of a box of yellow Labradors at 9 weeks old in a North Wales dog rescue home
  • Travelled and worked on 5 continents
  • Deployed to several major earthquakes
  • Awarded a global award for her work in Washington DC USA
  • 10 year long service award from Leicestershire Fire and Recue Service
  • Attended numerous incidents in the UK, one of these being the Glasgow factory gas explosion
  • Attended many station open days and national events
  • She was instrumental in training numerous handlers, USAR technicians and firefighters from many different fire and rescue services and international teams in the use of dogs in Urban Search and Rescue work.

In simple terms, Gemma was the dog that any handler would strive to own. She was a natural search dog and a dream to work with. She was one in a million and will be sadly missed by all of our family.

Chris Pritchard

Firefighter – Technical Rescue and Urban Search and Rescue

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