The female patient was recovering at St Stephen’s Hospital on the outskirts of Cork City last night after her four-hour ordeal.
Irish Search Dogs (ISD) said the positive outcome highlights the service they and their specialist dogs can provide to the State’s emergency services.
“But crucially, it highlights how important it is for us to get a call early in the search process,” said ISD spokesman Glen Barton.
The alarm was raised at around 2am yesterday morning when staff at St Stephen’s Hospital in Glanmire noticed a female patient, who had been admitted just a few hours earlier, was missing from her unit.
The hospital staff phoned their colleague, Suzanne Flynn, who is also a member of ISD, at around 4am.
She and her ISD colleague, Mick McCarthy, responded immediately — Suzanne with her collie, Kram, and Mr McCarthy with his bloodhound, Max.
The ISD team arrived at around 5am and conducted an initial search of the campus as gardaí travelled to the patient’s home to retrieve a scent item.
The gardaí returned to St Stephen’s with a shoe owned by the patient.
The searchers then went to the place where the patient was last seen, the woman’s shoe was presented to Max, who immediately picked up a scent and set off on her trail. He led his handler directly to the patient within 15 minutes.
She was found in a distressed and confused state, lying in bracken in a wooded area about half a kilometre away from where she was last seen. She was cold and wet and suffering from exposure.
She fled the scene and managed to leave the hospital grounds but was eventually found in Glanmire and was persuaded to return to the hospital for treatment.
“She was physically fine but she had been out in the elements for almost four hours,” Ms Flynn said.
“But this great ending shows the power of the dogs, and the importance of getting the early callout.”