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December 1, 2013: Dog Search and Rescue – Session #1

A few years back, I went to a handful of Mat-Su Dog Search and Rescue training sessions. In fact, one was held here. This was before we went on our first long horse trek. Then we didn’t have Signy or Hrimmi.

I recently reconnected with Stacey who is one of the SAR members. I’d lost track of her – she was hard to find because I could not recall her last name and had lost her email address. When finally, I again got a hold of her, I told her that I had a new dog and that I was interested in resuming search and rescue work.

Stacey invited me to a training session, which I attended today. It was held at the Matanuska Lake Recreation Area,

which is located in a low heat zone. If hell were cold, this is the place where it would be located. There’s a lake (now frozen) and trails, and a park. Must be nice in the summer. . . .

I am not one to feel, much less ever complain about, the cold, but today turned out to be the exception to the rule. My toes began hurting pretty early on. They and the rest of me were okay when I was on the move. However, there was a bit too much hurry up and wait going on for my liking. I was told that the Fairbanks Search and Rescue people hold training sessions when it’s -50° F out. I’m not sure I would attend. Guess I’d say I’m a fair weather gal with a fair weather dog.

The dogs were all wearing jackets, and many were wearing dog booties. I didn’t take Ryder because I knew she would have been cold. I also didn’t take hand warmers, nor did I take a thermos of tea. B-i-i-i-g mistake. I took a few photos, but not many. Too cold. And I did not take notes. Pen froze up.

I wore my heavy Refrigerware suit, and trundled along behind the others, twice, on three training sessions. I first followed Ariel Hudson and Padme(a Leonburger) and then followed Stacie Burkhart and Sage, and then followed Jim Maddry and Yukon (a Border Collie/collie mix). All, in the early stages of their training, were to find a subject who was hiding in the woods. Once they found them, they were rewarded by being presented with their favorite toy, and also by a joyous reception on the part of owners and those present.

I also went for a longer walk with Donna who owns Kip (a German shepherd). Kip was on a trail line. The dog was given a whiff of the subject’s scent beforehand, and then urged to look for her while on a lengthy walk. Donna and Kip have been doing this for some time, so the dog found her subject in very short order. Then, as they were walking away, another dog and its owner came up the trail. The other dog’s owner was somewhat clueless – she didn’t really pick up on the fact that Kip and Donna were doing a training session, even after Donna politely told her what was going on.

The day’s work concluded with a debriefing. I tried hard to focus on what people were saying, but I found this difficult because my toes were cold. But I did catch some things. One of the organizers stressed that the once-a-week training sessions are important because they keep the dogs sharp. This got me to thinking that they also increase the likelihood of that dogs, in training sessions, will be exposed to the unforeseen (such as ineffectual people and their poorly trained dogs). A good thing, I think.

On the drive home, I thought some about mine and Ryder’s future. I’d like to write a book called Working Dogs. This would be about the work dogs do, such as herding and search and rescue. A connecting theme would be common training philosophies, for example, praise, and be cognizant of your body language when working with dogs.

I don’t have a lot of dog stuff going on. But there now exists this possibility. Right now I’m doing obedience training with Ryder – this is foundational. And we are doing sheep herding. This is just plain fun. I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue with both and also do search and rescue work with her. I need to attend six sessions of SAR training before I can bring her to the sessions. This is so that I then appear to be committed and also have a sense of what’s going on. I’d also like to try agility. Ryder, I am sure, will let me know what it is that she most likes to do.

Next: 251: 12/2/13: Horses Gone