Relentless Hayling Island search dog who saved lives and attended 250 callouts during eight-year career is putting paws up to retire

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A relentless search dog who has saved lives and attended over 250 callouts during his incredible eight-year career is now putting his paws up to retire.

‘Brilliant’ and dedicated Springer Spaniel Oppo is stepping down from his work at Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs having just turned 12. The Hayling Island pooch has been instrumental in searches across Hampshire and surrounding counties working as part of a team of volunteers assisting police to search for high-risk vulnerable missing people.

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Search dog Oppo and handler Bug Wrightson pictured here marking eight years of incredible service to the community.Search dog Oppo and handler Bug Wrightson pictured here marking eight years of incredible service to the community.
Search dog Oppo and handler Bug Wrightson pictured here marking eight years of incredible service to the community.

Nicknamed Superhero, Loopy Loo and Mud Magnet, Oppo has made the difference time and again when the pressure is on and is one of the most experienced search and rescue dogs for lowland rescue in the country. Bug said: ‘We got him at two years old and I realised I had to give him a job before he quickly qualified as a search and rescue dog.

‘He’s had a number of operations where he has found people, especially men with dementia outside. Every person that has been found he has had a significant input into finding them.

‘There is a lot riding on the rescue dogs and they need to have good decision making and when they find someone they need to tell their handler. He’s worked across difficult terrain and steep hills. He searched 75 acres on his last search.’

But despite still having plenty of energy, Bug has decided now is the right time for Oppo to hang up his harness. ‘Physically he is still well up for it but it is right for him to finish at the top of his game. I wouldn’t want him to get injured and have future problems or to not find someone who was missing so it is time to put his feet up,’ Bug said.

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Oppo with his trusty toyOppo with his trusty toy
Oppo with his trusty toy

‘He has been a great wingman to have…he just wanted to get out there and work. He’s got lots of determination and intelligence. It’s quite an achievement to have worked for eight years. There is a very high standard of training by the police and he had to re-qualify every two years.’

Bug added: ‘Oppo loved working as a search dog and didn’t really have an off switch, regularly finding picnickers when out on a daily walk. As unofficial head of Team Spaniel Oppo served as a mentor for trainee spaniels and their handlers who learnt a great deal from watching him work.

‘We know Oppo as the “Mud Magnet” but he is equally famous for his boundless enthusiasm and a total obsession with his search toy. Typical of a working Springer he is fearless and determined.

‘It’s been an honour and a privilege to work alongside a dog with such a massive zest for life and determination to find the missing. Even on his last search, a month shy of his 12th birthday, he willingly searched large areas of the most challenging terrain; hills, bogs, bad weather, darkness, dense ground cover or impenetrable bushes are nothing to him. He will always be my life-saving superstar and lovable loon.’

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