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January 19, 2014: Dog Training – Search and Rescue #6

Yesterday after agility, Pete, Ryder and I went to search and rescue training, which was held at the Bumpus Ball Fields. This wasn’t too far from Better Pet Companion, where we are taking obedience and agility classes. By this point in time – 11 a.m.—it was raining and snowing both, and the ground was a slushy, mushy mess. I thought that the training session might be cancelled, but the trucks and cars in the parking lot indicated otherwise.

I missed Stacie Burkhardt’s helicopter briefing. This was my sixth training session – the rule is no dog training until you do this – however, I did get to

participate in loading practice because it was universally agreed that helicopter training is a rare event. The objective was seemingly simple – get the dog on the helicopter platform, which in this case was a truck bed. As I understood it, larger dogs are taught to put their paws on the bed, and then given a boost up onto the level surface. And smaller dogs are given a lift up.

Early on, I watched Aaron work with Duke, his large dog. Right then, I found myself thinking that I was glad that we found a Border Collie and not a Saint Bernard. I’m pretty strong, but hefting a 160 pound load on a four foot high platform would be pushing it. Now, Ryder is by far the smallest dog in the group, which means that I will have to lift her up onto the platform myself. As Stacie B noted, this is going to mean that I’m going to have to hold onto her tight, really tight. I heard this and grabbed onto her harness – and was told to also hold tight to her leash. I repeatedly reminded myself that the helicopter will be noisy and the rotors will be going, so I will have to be careful to keep a hold of her.

I will sometime this week practice helicopter loading, using the yard and porch deck. I will run with the leash in hand, bent over, up to the pseudo helicopter platform, pick up my dog, hoist her onto it, click, and give her a treat.

Pete hung out with Ryder while I went on one trail and one wilderness search. Then Ryder participated in what I called a doggie meet and greet. At training’s end, Stacie B had us all stand in a circle and individually weave our dogs around the other handlers and their dogs. We then had to cross the circle, leave our dogs sitting next to someone else, turn around, walk away, and call our dogs back to us. Ryder was less than enthusiastic about this. I suspect that she was feeling a bit chilled and maybe overwhelmed. I worried that perhaps I’d messed up her little border collie psyche – for on the car ride home she slept soundly under my fleece hoodie and down coat. Actually, she laid there with a dazed look in her eyes.

However, she returned to being her usual peppy self once we were again on familiar ground. She played with Rainbow and Jenna, and got in a good barking session before coming back up to the cabin and eating kibble with salmon juice. And this evening, she alternated snoozing with and tearing apart whatever she could find lying around. The only toy that she has yet to rip apart is the raccoon tail. This was originally an entire stuffed raccoon when Rainbow was a pup.

The two searches went well. I again went out with Kathy and Tara – this trail search was lengthy, involved, and complicated. This was because it was windless, there were cross trails, and the area was riddled with other scents. After, I went out with Stacie B, Dan, Steve, and Dan’s dog Dug. This wilderness search was complicated. This was because Dug is large, ebullient, strong Golden Retriever who delights in bounding around. Still, I learned a great deal about air scenting. For instance, air scent dogs cover a large set area, then hone in on the scent. And the trail dogs then pick up and follow it. I also learned some about the importance of the show me command. This, locating an object, is the first thing an air scent dog learns, and the last thing it puts into practice.

All told, I was out today for four hours, running about in the mush and slush. Bog boots are good for getting around in the glop, but alas, they don’t retain warmth. Oh, the things we discover when training search and rescue dogs.

Next: 20. 1/20/14: January 20, 2014: Barefoot Horse, by Victoria Faeo