Retired Lake District mountain rescue dog awarded ‘animal OBE’ after 11 years of service

Skye was believed to have been the oldest working Mountain Rescue dog in the UK before her retirement.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 1st April 2022

A retired search dog who was believed to have been the oldest working Mountain Rescue dog in the UK has been awarded an “animal OBE” for her service.

Before hanging up her lead back in 2020 at the age of 14, Skye the Border Collie had carried out 200 searches during her 11 impressive years of working in the Lake District fells, and it’s because of these countless courageous acts that she has been awarded a prestigious PDSA Order of Merit this week.

The PDSA Order of Merit was set up in 2014, is known as the animals’ OBE, and according to the charity, recognises animals that display outstanding devotion to their owner or wider society, and go above and beyond companionship.

Born in 2006, Skye served as a puppy trainee with Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team (MRT), and after qualifying as a Mountain Rescue Search Dog in 2009, she went on to serve with Duddon and Furness, Langdale and Ambleside, and finally, Kendal MRT, where she finished her career.

Skye and her handler, John Leadbetter, also attended searches outside their MRT areas in Lancashire, the Pennines, and Scotland.


During her expansive career, Skye searched day and night in all kinds of weather, even in the face of 70 to 80mph wind, and had worked in the highest Lake District Mountains, some of the remotest valleys, and even Morecambe Bay’s coastal expanse. 

Skye is the 36th animal to receive the PDSA Order of Merit.


Speaking on the renowned achievement, Mr Leadbetter said: “Skye means everything to me, she’s my best friend on the fells and we’re life-long partners.

“To see her receive the PDSA Order of Merit is a truly humbling and touching experience, and it’s a wonderful recognition of the time and hard work that search dogs and their teams dedicate to mountain safety.

“To say we’re chuffed is an understatement.”


“Skye is a worthy recipient of the PDSA Order of Merit for her long and distinguished career of outstanding service to society,” the charity said.

Jan McLoughlin – Director General at PDSA – added: “We’re incredibly proud to be honouring Skye with our PDSA Order of Merit as her exceptional skills and outstanding devotion above and beyond that of normal companionship make her a very worthy recipient.

“We feel this is a fitting tribute to her lifetime of dedication and hard work.

“Her long and distinguished career has not only seen her protect and help people in danger, her ambassadorial work has helped to raise important funds and increase awareness of the incredible work these Mountain Rescue teams perform.”

Now almost 16, Skye is enjoying her retirement with Mr Leadbetter and his family – who say she still loves to get out on the hills and fells, only just at a slightly slower pace these days.

Featured Image – PDSA (via Twitter)