Rescue dogs

The Southampton Hampshire search and rescue dog duo who saved hundreds of lives

From scouring Southampton Common for missing people in the dead of night, no day was the same for Kevin Saunders and his dog Zak.

The North Baddesley Dream Team have saved hundreds of lives during their 11 year volunteer career with Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs.

Although Zak, now 14½, has been retired for more than two years, the duo recently received the PDSA Order of Merit for their hard work.

Kevin Saunders and his dog Zak

Kevin now volunteers with his dog Rusty but feels extremely grateful for his career with Zak.

The 40-year-old said: “We built Zak’s research training from the day he came home in 2008 and included the various stages during his first year.

“A few days after Zak’s first birthday, he became qualified, in 2009.

“We would go out all the time and in all weathers looking for missing people, and sometimes we would travel for hours until we got to where we needed to be.

“We never knew what we were going to get. We are extremely lucky in Hampshire to have all these green spaces, but it also means these areas need to be searched when people go missing.

READ MORE: Hero Search and Rescue Dog Honored with Prestigious Order of Merit

Kevin previously served in Iraq as a reserve but left the forces behind to focus on his role with the Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs.

He said, “Doing this role quickly became my true passion and everything else took a back seat.

Daily Echo: Zakzack

“I left the army reserves and put all my power into search and rescue.

“Zak was an integral part of my passion for it. He was the reason I wanted to do search and rescue all the time.

Zak retired in February 2020 and now enjoys a relaxing life, which includes lots of swimming.

Kevin said: “I made the decision to pull Zak out when we were deployed near Winchester.

“I gave him big hugs afterwards and that was the end of his career.

Daily Echo: Kevin Saunders and his dog ZakKevin Saunders and his dog Zak

“I couldn’t have asked for a better career, and it shaped me as a person.

“Every organization I have worked with has been so supportive and none of this would be possible without Zak.

“He pushed me towards what I wanted to accomplish, and it was a real honor to work with him and save lives.

“It’s really a team effort with all the volunteers. This team effort meant Zak and I were in the right place for those in need.”

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