HE is the rescuer who has helped to track down 250 missing people across the south coast.

Having been called on by the police for almost ten years to help out, Zak is always primed and ready.

Now, his handler Kev Saunders has paid tribute to the Border Collie who has helped on hundreds of live searches as part of the charity, Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs.

Zak, who lives in North Baddesley, is a level three trained and operational search dog, part of a team of around 15 volunteers and their dogs who can be called on at any moment.

Kev and Zak have spent their entire lives together around lower Test Valley, having previously lived in Lockerley and Awbridge.

But despite calling North Baddesley their home, they can be deployed across almost anywhere in Hampshire when they are needed.

Zak has also helped to carry out recent searches in Dorset, and Kev, 36, said Zak is one of the most highly regarded search dogs in the team.

Kev said: “I first got involved in search dogs when I was deployed in Iraq back in 2007.

“When I came back I wanted to do more, and then in August that year, I got Zak.

“He was the youngest ever training search dog as part of the team.

“He was an absolute natural at it.

“Some dogs you really have to keep on it and keep them focussed, but Zak loves what he does. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be so good at it.

“That’s the key thing with search dogs, they love what we do, and Zak is usually instrumental in searches.”

Zak began training when he was nine weeks old, and will be celebrating his tenth anniversary as a search dog in February next year.

He has helped to take part in 250 live searches, though Kev also said that the pair can be called, only for the search to be called off as they head out the door.

Kev, who is self-employed and works in security systems, said: “Zak has also won awards, including being commended by the PDSA in 2013.

“A few weeks ago he was vital in finding a man who went missing in North Baddesley.

“We rely on donations to keep things running, and Zak lives with me, he is a house dog.

“His welfare has to come first, because Zak is my pet.

“That’s the same as Rusty, who is currently in training at level one.

“There is no set age really for search dogs to retire, that’s always a key question.

“I think he will keep on going for a couple more years before he enjoys his well-deserved retirement.”