TOP DOG: Mariska Herbert and her assistance dog Bill who is pioneering the way QPS search for people.
TOP DOG: Mariska Herbert and her assistance dog Bill who is pioneering the way QPS search for people. Meg Bolton

Bill leads the way to helping lost people in the bush

BILL the border collie was almost put down three years ago, but now he is pioneering the way the Queensland Police Service searches for lost people.

His overactive nature was what nearly got him destroyed by his then owner, but since 2016 the Esk collie has used the attribute to learn the skills to help those in need.

The short-haired border collie's owner and trainer Mariska Herbert said dogs seen to be a "nuisance” often made good search canines.

"You want them to have that drive because Bill's only reward for going out and working is a ball,” Ms Herbert said.

Since qualifying as an All Search K9 Incorporated land service and rescue dog, Bill has proved Ms Herbert's theory with the efficient ways by which he captured the attention of emergency services.

At present, he is undergoing a demonstration process with the police service.

Ms Herbert said Bill was pioneering with the police service to show how his service could best be utilised.

Bill has been trained to search bushland for people reported missing.

In his demonstrations he searched the bush off lead, wearing a Global Positioning System tracker, which was downloaded to the QPS system to monitor his progress.

"They use the GPS data and maps to see what areas he has cleared in the wilderness, up hills and in the bush,” Ms Herbert said.

According to Ms Herbert, Bill could search 10 acres of bush for a missing person in less than 30 minutes.

Ms Herbert accompanies Bill on his missions.

"In land search and rescue he will go out and find the missing person, he will bark at the person, and then come back to me, bark at me and lead me back to where the person is located,” she said.

Ms Herbert is one of the founding members of AS-K9, a not-for-profit organisation which works alongside emergency services to locate missing people.

The organisation aims to support organisations by training and providing odour detection dogs capable of locating threatened species, invasive animals, weeds and diseases.

Ms Herbert said she was always on call to help emergency services.

In 2015, she was pre-deployed with her former search dog to Townsville as part of the urban search and rescue task force to help in the aftermath of a cyclone.

Ms Herbert's former dog Tui was trained to search for people trapped amongst rubble, but Bill's niche is finding people who are either hiding or on the move.

In order to keep Bill functioning at optimum level Ms Herbert took him on her runs, made him swim beside her kayak and also took him along the entire length of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.

Bill has trained in four states with each state's training canine units.

While Ms Herbert dedicates both her time and finances to training her search dogs, she does not receive anything in return.

When asked why she put so much effort into the cause she said: "To hopefully save someone's life some day.”


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