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.|