Curmudgeonry - German Shepherd Dog Forums
 
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-11-2011, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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Curmudgeonry

You know I know sometimes I must sound like an old curmudgeon and a not very welcoming one at that........

I wind up fielding the email inquiries for our team and basically, our team, like many others gets many many many folks who "want to do SAR' who have absolutely zero experience with being in the woods or any kind of rescue/fire/EMS work

Fortunately, changes to our web page and policy have really cut down the email chatter. Though I will say I have always been polite to an inquiring person.

Out of those the vast majority of them really are just looking for something neat and fun to do with their dog..and the thought the dog could get hurt doing this never crosses their mine. And it IS neat and it is fun but it really is a lot more..........

But for those who really really want to do this there is a place but you may need to put your foot in the door and be persistent because a lot of teams have spun their wheels way too many times with a prospect who should never have come to their first training.......and bringing in a new person/dog takes a LOT of team time. Time that may be better spent.

---------

A few words of advice to folks looking for a team on some things folks have said to me that give cause for a double take.

"My dog needs a job" - no - he doesn't- he is a dog. He may need some sort of stimulating activity but there are many outlets for the dog.

"My dog is so wonderful when they see him they will want us on the team" Same old same old....its a DOG...nothing more nothing less. Maybe its a good dog. Maybe not.

"its all about the dog" - no - the dog is just a tool. That would be like someone deciding they need to join the police department because they got this really neat new gun they want to play with.

"it is exciting and adventurious" - sometimes - maybe more for disaster than wilderness but more often than not it is 2 am and it is raining and you are looking for someone who is already old, confused, and near death and you really need to be somewhere the next day. Takes a special motivation to get out of bed and drive hours realizing that it may be very likely that they may not even be alive when you get there and YOU need to have that kind of drive to drop everything and go looking for them.

Oh, by the way, can you get off work if you do this? At least some of the time?

"it is hard to find a good dog'- not nearly as hard as it is to find a good team member. Most teams really want someone who will stay and either get a new dog or do something else for the team if theirs does not work out. Each dog and handler usually goes out with at least 2 other flankers and dog handlers are preferred because....they can help read the dog along with other things.

Some of the things we have seen before we started requiring folks to take and finish the free online ICS training (100-200-700-800) to get an idea of the structure before even coming to training. Then there will be many other classes totally unrelated to the dog.

-Folks who have never set foot in the woods - yes, there really are briars out there and I guarantee you will get scratched up and eaten up by bugs and there are not toilets out there either.
-Alligators and snakes and other wildlife really can be a hazard but if a human life is at stake, a dog is worth risking
-If you have never seen a dead person it will stick with you for a long time
-GPS units are great but you still need to become proficient with map and compass and know where you are
-You need to be comfortable in the woods in the dark at night
-You need to be fit. I work a cadaver dog which does not require the speed that a live find search requires but still takes a lot of agility and endurance on the handlers part -but there is a place for folks like me on the right team - but not on all teams (I work the computer and keep up with downloading GPS data etc, maps, radios, during a live search and am a great victim for training) - - - in any regard you must be BRUTALLY honest with your limitations and your abilities because lives are at stake
-The most dangerous part of SAR is the drive back from the search
-You will have to spend a good bit of money to be a SAR volunteer


-Usually, though, when you wonder if it is all worth it (and believe me you WILL), a person gets found alive who probably would have died had they been out for another day and THAT makes the whole thing worthwhile or a family thanks you for looking for the reamins of a loved one and you realize you sure would want someone to do the same for you.

So just rambling.......I am sure others can add.........sometimes it is hard not to be jaded and I post this meaning well, because if you REALLY want to do this and get brushed off......persistence does pay.......if you get asked to do something to prepare for coming - DO IT -

the number one issue I have seen with folks is there is no room for someone who cannot fit into a command structure and follow directions or argue with the commander -- and if you cant follow a very basic direction like "bring boots to training", well there you have it.............

Nancy



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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-11-2011, 05:51 PM
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Yea, you're a curmudgeon...so is my Dad. Thank god for people like you!!
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-11-2011, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by jocoyn View Post

"it is hard to find a good dog'- not nearly as hard as it is to find a good team member. Most teams really want someone who will stay and either get a new dog or do something else for the team if theirs does not work out. Each dog and handler usually goes out with at least 2 other flankers and dog handlers are preferred because....they can help read the dog along with other things.
This is my favorite part!!

What has cut almost all of those "I want something fun to do with my dog" and to spend less time and money on folks and their dogs that will no stick long enough to be useful to the team is that the SAR team owns all the dogs. If you are not willing, we will not train your pet for you nor give you something exciting to tell later of "those times when you joined the SAR team" to your friends. Is it all about saving lives? Then all your work and efforts go TO THE TEAM and not for you to have something to brag about. In exchange, we have connections with breeders of good bloodlines here and abroad and if your dog is not cut to the task we will provide you a dog that more likely you will not be able to buy yourself. But if your job changes, if your wife has a baby, if you go back to school (that would be me) then the dog remains with the team doing what was trained to do and what was donated to do.

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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-13-2011, 10:33 PM
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I understand how you feel because I respond to the inquiries to my team and get a lot of the same questions. You make some very good points and anyone thinking about getting involved in K9 SAR would do well to heed your advice.

Most people that inquire aren't prepared to commit to a role on the team, for lots of different reasons. But if they learn what it takes to be a member then they can start preparing for a future time when they will be ready. So I try to steer people in the right direction no matter how uninformed they may be initially. Everybody who does become involved has to start down the path somewhere, and maybe the next person that writes and says that their dog needs a job will be one of the few to actually follow through and become a valued resource to a team and to their community.

Jonathan & Benny

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-13-2011, 11:06 PM
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I understand the problem, but I think that is too drastic of a solution. I would not join a team that requires that they own my dog. I imagine most experienced SAR handlers would say the same thing. What an awful feeling it would be to have to give up your parter because of an unforeseen change in your situation. I empathize with law enforcement and military k9 handlers that are faced with those situations, but I didn't know any volunteer SAR teams did that as well.

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Originally Posted by Catu View Post
What has cut almost all of those "I want something fun to do with my dog" and to spend less time and money on folks and their dogs that will no stick long enough to be useful to the team is that the SAR team owns all the dogs.

Jonathan & Benny

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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-13-2011, 11:27 PM
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I understand the problem, but I think that is too drastic of a solution. I would not join a team that requires that they own my dog. I imagine most experienced SAR handlers would say the same thing. What an awful feeling it would be to have to give up your parter because of an unforeseen change in your situation. I empathize with law enforcement and military k9 handlers that are faced with those situations, but I didn't know any volunteer SAR teams did that as well.
I would not do that either. Nope. Not going to happen! The dogs are mine and not the teams and they will never be the teams dogs.

As for good dogs... none of the other shepherds in my team come even close to the quality of mine. Also, I've been upfront from the beginning. They know that my husband is in the military and that one day we might have to move if we don't decide to stay here and plan on having a long distance relationship. I've been with the team for a couple of weeks and now one of the two obedience instructors. I'd say, for a complete newbie at SAR and a new team-member I am pretty useful. Anyhow, our team situation is somewhat different... and they need good dogs and good handlers.

As long as I am with the team I will make myself useful as much as I can and follow orders as long as they make sense.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-14-2011, 05:49 AM Thread Starter
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Our team does not "own" any of the dogs but we have been screening the dogs before they are allowed to training, and if they don't make the cut from the beginning the prospective handler is told that we will help them find another dog or expect them to do something else like flank or work command.

We have spun too many wheels in the past trying to make a dog who is not going to work out do the job-and that is a huge time investment which takes time away from training the dogs that ARE suitable.

Every one of the leaders has learned the hard way over the years and washed out at least one of their own dogs so we have empathy, but it is about using the best tool for the job.

We also have a 3 month probationary period before the dog can come to trainings. During this time, they are expected to complete some of their early training and work on any assignments we have given them with the dog. We got that approach from other teams.

Nancy



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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-14-2011, 07:18 AM
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I understand it is not THE solution, it is what has worked for us. And I know by first hand experience what is to leave a dog behind. I raised and trained Auka, and when I moved I decided to leave her with the team instead of taking her with me to be an expensive (not in terms of money) pet at home. Actually, it was me who set the precedent that became a rule later. When it was impossible to me due to broken bridges and collapsed highways to attend to the earthquake past year I cried my eyes out. But later, when I saw Auka working and doing findings, even if with another handler... I can't express how it feels.

Here we do many things that are not ideal, like training the same dogs in rubble and wilderness, but when you can count the dogs for 18 million people with the fingers of your hands... you understand that every one of them is too valuable to be lost for any, any reason.

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