Whenever you see the devastation of earthquakes and other natural disasters you often see search and rescue dogs right in the middle of those catastrophic events. Handlers with trained dogs looking for people trapped in the devastation, injured unconscious survivors that simply couldn’t be found any other way. I always thought those dogs were trained by special divisions of law enforcement or government emergency response teams, but I found out that’s simply not the case. It’s everyday people who volunteer their time and efforts to train their own dogs to save lives.
I met St. Croix County resident Susan Alexandra Leary a few years ago but it wasn’t until recently that I became aware of her involvement with search and rescue dogs. Alex, as she likes to be called was with several other men and women with their dogs in the middle of a training and testing event. These were local people with a love of dogs with a purpose to save people’s lives.
Alex told me, “Some of us are getting ready to leave for a national search and rescue dog seminar in Shreveport, Texas. They were the first to use search and rescue dogs to locate people lost in the bayous, in hurricanes and other dangerous situations. Those people needed to come up with a way to save and locate their relatives, friends and neighbors. In worse case scenarios they were looking for people who had lost their lives so cadaver dogs were used. Cadaver dogs were vital during the 9/11 Event to find cadavers and human parts from the Twin Towers collapsing.”
Alex invited me to watch their dogs in a live action search and rescue training event. I was introduced to a pair of Rottweilers, a White Swiss Sheppard, a German Sheppard, a Flat Coated Retriever and a young Small Munsterlander who were all at various levels of training and ages in action. They all had their own special search and find object that they had to locate that were hidden in the facility and on vehicles. When the dogs found them, they would either bark or simply sit to let their handlers know they had completed their work. As a man who has raised and trained dogs for nearly 50 years, I was impressed with both the dogs and handlers as they teamed up for success.
Alex brought it home when she explained the dangers involved in searches for dogs and handlers. Tracking along busy highways at night, flooding rivers, storms, fires, collapsing buildings, in heat and cold all with lives on the line. When I’m out with my dogs its usually a leisurely walk through a colorful autumn forest, western prairies or cornfields and grasslands in the Dakotas looking for pheasants, sharp-tail grouse, quail and partridge. It doesn’t make any difference to the dogs, they’re simply doing what they were trained and love to do.
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments.
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