Saturday, November 12, 2011

SAR trip

Some of you may have wondered how my first Search and Rescue seminar went last weekend. Overall, it went really really well. Part of my fears were re-evaluated, others did come true. But in the end, I was able to handle them all.

First, the good: Tovah did great! For the last several weeks, I had forgone working on what we call an "indication" with her - the alert that tells the handler, "yes, there is something here." Instead, I had done some other exercises to up her enthusiasm. When I came into this seminar, my criteria for her was just to find the cadaver odor. Well, she not only found it, but she indicated too. I was both surprised and thrilled.

This is a scent box. A scent, whatever it may be, cadaver, a drug, etc. will be placed in it. The dog smells it, and then when indicating correctly, a ball is thrown into the tube. Dogs who are very ball-driven love this! 

Tovah likes balls but prefers food. But when it is novel, she goes for the ball immediately.

She had a little trouble with some scenarios, but that is mostly the workings of a beginner. The scenarios where she had to indicate were: 2 hidden cadaver odors on trails, the perimeter of an empty cabin, inside the empty cabin, and discriminate the correct birdhouse (of 5) with the cadaver scent. We did this both on Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday, she was even better. I was truly excited for her.

My fear that she was "not good" enough was pre-emptive. Sometimes, I have this impression that my dog must be "intense" as many I see, but as one attendee with a dual certified dog in both HRD (human remains detection) and live-find (meaning finding a live person) said, "You don't need an intense dog, just a dog who will get the job done." Those were great words for me to hear.

On Saturday night, we had a mock night search. Basically, we split up into 7 teams. Then, we had certain locations that we were to search in. Some of us were searching for "evidence," while others were looking for missing persons. My team was looking for "evidence." The people organizing the seminar, they actually go and plant the "evidence" and the missing persons, aka mannequins. I was so happy for myself in finding an empty milk dud container that could have been evidence. A teammate found the "gun" which was the major item we were supposed to find. The other teams found most of what they were supposed to as well. It is a bit strange, because although this seminar was at a state park, why in the heck would some people be walking around on the trails at night when it is pitch dark with no lights! One team also spotted Abraham Lincoln! I later learned from some of my other teammates that sometimes the searches had to be called off. The most recent, a few years ago, was some campers who had a meth lab going. Eeek!

Now, the fear that did come true was the food situation. I knew it was going to be dining hall style meals, but they did not expect any who were vegetarian. (I do eat fish, but there were none) The cooks just happen to overhear me talking to another person how I was vegetarian, so he pulled me aside and showed me what they had. Yep, you guessed it, salad. Not that I mind that so much, but the salad was the bagged pre-made mostly iceberg lettuce type. I think the only other thing to be added to it was tomatoes. I do not call myself a food snob per se, but if I have a salad to eat, it is with nutritious foods--no iceberg lettuce for me! also, I almost always add some protein source--fish, a veggie burger, tofu, etc.

I had two options: either fret and not eat or make do with what I had. I chose the latter. Plus, I would have felt guilty since the people were so kind to me. They wanted to make sure I had something to eat. They basically gave me special treatment in saying anytime I wanted to come into the kitchen I could. This is not to say that there were other items that were inedible, there were just no real protein sources for me at dinner time. I made do though and joked with the others at the table that it was good I was not afraid of carbs. LOL

Other than that, and the fact the cabins were a little more rustic than I thought, and I stepped in poop on Saturday night, this first seminar experience went well. I feel a little more confident in my and my dog's abilities and hope to continue on with SAR work. The next big seminar I have my eye on is one at Western Carolina University specifically for HRD dogs. It is in early March with the registration opening on January 11 at 1pm EST. I only put these specifics in, because there are a limited number of handlers (30 I think), and the one for last weekend, sold out in 9 minutes! Whoa! Gosh, I have absolutely no clue what I will be doing on that day, but I certainly hope to be at my computer, waiting to hit the register button. I should also say the reason why this workshop is so coveted is 1) it is geared strictly to HRD dogs and 2) your dog gets a chance to be exposed to full dead bodies at FOREST aka the "body farm." You just don't get that everyday.

A few other photos:

Tovah going through the tunnel. The agility equipment set up was nice for dogs to blow off steam.


Tovah on A-frame
We had a surprise visit from St. Mary's life force team in their helicopter. Tovah got a chance to go in one. 
View near our cabins. This was taken in the early morning when the sun had just come up.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Search and Rescue seminar preparation

Tomorrow, Tovah and I are leaving for our first Search and Rescue seminar. I am STOKED but also incredibly nervous. We will be meeting up with another SAR dog person (I met her a few months ago at one of our group training sessions, and we really hit it off - she owns a small daycare and boarding kennel) and following each other to the camp site.

Since she has been there before, she has given me some idea of what to expect. This is good for me, because I get really nervous at these kinds of settings, partly for dog reasons, partly for me reasons.

The dog reasons:

  • I get worried that my dog will do horribly, and that the instructor will say she is not fit to do this work. 
  • I get worried that she will not behave that well (really she is pretty good except meeting new dogs on leash - hence partly why I haven't done the CGC test with her). 

I know this really small potatoes, but there is still an element of wanting to excel there, especially as a dog trainer and being around such knowledgeable, trained people and dogs.

As for the me reasons:

  • I have no idea what food is there other than I've been told, they feed you really well. 
  • I have no idea of the conditions of the cabin. I just know I need to bring my own bedding. I think everything else is furnished, but I just worry anyway. 
  • Though I'm really excited about the mock night trial (no dogs, just handlers), I feel unprepared. I know I have some stuff for "survival" if needed but not all of it. Some of that stuff is expensive! I've been told there is a time limit of 4 hours to find the victim. Apparently, one year it took the entire 4 hours, but last year it only took like 10 minutes. 

I know some people would relate this similar to the large conference I was at in San Diego. The difference with this one is that I'm really going in blindly. At least with the conference, there was predictability. Certainly, I have gotten better with this over time, but still, it does cause some anxiety.

And then, there is my car. Yesterday, my car overheated. Luckily, I was only 0.5 mile from my house at a stoplight when all the sudden I see steam from my car. Then, I look at my thermostat on "H." I made it home, shut off the car, got stuff out of my car, called a repair shop, and then called AAA to tow my car there. (By the way, if you don't have AAA, it is worth getting. There is no cost if you have to be towed, and you can have multiple people on the policy) The strange thing is that I didn't have any indication from my car, other than a slightly unpleasant smell which I did not think anything of. I had this happen before when I was 16 and blew the transmission out I believe, so I was expecting some kind of similar sign but did not notice anything.

The car repair place called this morning and said it was a radiator problem.  The good news is that it is an easy repair and the car will be fixed today.  The bad news is that it is more costly than I'd like.  However, I know it could have been worse.  In the back of my mind, I almost though this was some sort of weird sign telling me I shouldn't go. I also learned one of the main roads to get to the camp site is closed until early December.  I'm hoping the GPS reroutes me well and doesn't take me through some small windy roads.

This is certainly an adventure.  I'm hoping to learn a lot, make some new contacts, and simply have fun.  Oh yes, and there is a helicopter landing!  I'll give an update when I get back.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Unlabel me

I don't have a huge amount of time right now - really need to be doing other computer things, but I wanted to post this photo. (It's been sitting in my draft folder for a week now)  I was reminded of it when I recently read a post by another dog trainer talking about how some of her friends called her the "Dog Whisperer."  I have also been named this at times as well.  None of this would be so bad other than this trainer and myself, well, we just don't align with the modern day Dog Whisperer techniques (Paul Owens was actually the original dog whisperer, titling a book the same name back in 1999. His book offered dog training guidance in compassionate, non-violent methods)  Although the people who "label" us this do not mean any offense by it, but rather, they are actually trying to give a compliment of sorts.

So labels, do they give importance? What are the values in them? I can see both sides of the argument on this, but for the purpose of this blog on eating disorder recovery, labels do have a tendency to narrow you into one definition. Anyone who has dealt with insurance certainly knows this.

In recovery, I think a lot of us try to shed the label of whatever eating disorder you may have had. We find we are much for than a definition, and we actually begin to value ourselves as such. We find that we want others to see us differently - as a person with a lot more qualities than how we appeared when suffering.

In thinking this, what labels do you want to shed? Is it only the ED one or are there are others as well? It's good food for thought. :-)

Celebrating both a Halloween and a Birthday

Well, Halloween wasn't really that exciting. I had all of 4 trick or treaters. Last year, I had more, so I'm not sure what happened. I guess it is probably not helpful that my outdoor light by the front door does not work. One girl who came by lives catty-corner to me. As I gave her her candy, she excitedly told me how they have a new dog....again. In the two years I have been here, they have had at lest 4 dogs. The running trend is that they either realize the dog is too hyper for them, the dog gets run over by a car, or they just don't want that particular dog due to not being trained. I keep wondering what life lesson this actually teaches the little girl in the long run.

Anyway, something I've learned or rather at least gotten past is my fear of having too much candy around. In years past at Halloween, I'd make sure to pick candy I did not like. That way, I could either give it to people or throw it away. I was too afraid of my eating disorder tendencies. Just the fact of it being there used to worry me immensely. Now, however, I actually choose candy that I like and will eat. I've learned that eating a piece of candy or two is truly okay. And gasp, there are times I kind of crave it. However, I do know my limit too, meaning if my body has too much sugar in any form, I tend to get major gastrointestinal upset. And that is definitely not fun.

Though I'm posting this a bit late, this photo was passed around facebook recently, at least among the dog community. It was one of the better decorations out there.

On another note, today was also Tovah's birthday. She turned a whole 3 years old. It's really hard to believe that much time has passed. Here was my facebook status for today:

Dearest Tovah,
Today, you turn 3 years old! You came into my life on a mere run - having almost passed you. But yet, because you had such a wonderful temperament, I wound up keeping you. It was one of the best decisions I made. I could not imagine my life without you. You have turned into a wonderful and beautiful dog. Happy Birthday, Little One.
Love, your mo