Hero Scots sniffer dog dies after 11 years of helping bereaved families

Barra sadly passed away following a short illness

Scotland's only underwater sniffer dog has died after spending more than a decade in service and helping grieving families.

Springer Spaniel Barra recently passed away at the age of 13 following a short illness. The canine retired from duty in 2022 after spending 11 years locating bodies in the River Clyde alongside his master, Iain Marshall.

The pair undertook specialist training in Wales in 2011 before going on to help bring closure to hundreds of families across the country.

Announcing the heartbreaking news on Facebook, Ian, from K9 Search and Recovery Scotland, said: "It's with great sadness I have to make this post. After a short illness, I had to make the decision to put Barra to sleep.

"Words cannot describe the pain I feel at the moment, but I know deep down it was the right decision for Barra. Barra devoted his entire life to helping others right up to the age of 13 years which is remarkable in itself.

"I would like to thank each and every one of you for the support you have given us over those years to which I'm very grateful for. Barra and I had such a special bond together and I can't imagine life without him anymore

"I would also like to thank Rachel and everyone at Mackenzie Vets for the care and compassion Barra received over the years, I'm forever grateful to each and every one of you. Rest easy Barra, till we meet again.

"And thank you for your service and being the best friend I ever had."

Barra and Ian
Barra and Ian -Credit:Lennox Herald

Barra was originally born in Wales before being taken to his forever home in Dumbarton, where his potential as a Victim Recovery dog was discovered by Ian. With just under a year of training, he qualified as Scotland's first Submerged Victim Recovery Dog, and K9 Search & Recovery Scotland was created.

Iain, from Helensburgh, West Dunbartonshire, trained Barra using pigs' meat and during this period, he was able to locate his first missing person. Thereafter, the pair would head out on search missions and, when Barra smelt something, he would bark and scratch the deck before sitting down.

He would stand again if the boat went out of range of the scent. Barra and Ian, who were Coastguard volunteers, received calls from police and coastguards all over the country to help in the search for missing people.

Barra at work
Barra at work -Credit:Lennox Herald

He assisted in the search for missing man Paul Harley, who vanished from Coatbridge in North Lanarkshire in 2014. The 53-year-old grandfather was presumed legally dead last year.

Ian and Barra travelled as far as Wales to help with investigations. In honour of his work, Barra was inducted into the Animal Heroes Hall of Fame last year.

The organisation celebrates animals who overcome adversity to become heroes in various ways to help both humans and other animals.

Speaking after Barra's retirement in 2022, Ian said: “We’ve done 11 years with Barra and I did 18 in the Coastguard. There comes a point where you have to a draw a line.

“But if anyone ever came to us and asked for assistance then we’d be getting the boots on and out the door straight away I think.”

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