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Discussion Starter #1
Hi...I've read through some of the threads in this section and will read more.

I was hoping to start training with Myrika but she is not a candidate due to her hip dysplasia. My interest in K-9 SAR was peaked about 6 or 7 years ago, and because I waited too long to pursue this my two Goldens are both considered too old to start training (one is 7, the other just under 6). Myrika turned 2 in June and really she is on the high end of the age that would be considered by the group in my area.

Anyway, although I'm really heartbroken about not being able to do this with Myrika or my other dogs, it gives me time to prepare. I am reading 'Intro to SAR' and have ordered 3 other books (map & compass, scenting, SAR dogs) that the local group tests on, just to be considered for training. The group is regional, works with law enforcement (mostly NH & Maine) and has an excellent reputation with law enforcement for their work, skill, and professionalism.

I live in an area where there is a lot available to me for courses, for gathering and honing of skills and knowledge. I've got a friend that is an instructor for professional wilderness rescue training (I think for either AMC or SOLO), and one that is a rescue jumper/swimmer for the Coast Guard...for more brain picking.

It was suggested for me to bushwhack a mile during the day and then also at night. I'm also going to see if I can be a victim for this local group. I know there's years of experience on this board and wondering what else that can be recommended to me.

Thanks in advance!
 

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Definitely volunteer to go missing for the local team. I feel strongly that is the ONE thing where you can learn SO much more than you ever could in a book. I would, however, recommend taking a book, perhaps some snacks with you if you are going to be "lost" for a while. When you are not "lost" walk with as many experienced handlers as you can. Watch how they and their dogs work. Learn to read the subtle body language of each dog. Ask questions and LOTS of them, although you would want to ask another team member that is walking with you and allow the handler to do their job with as few distractions as possible.

Volunteer with this team as much as possible so you have an idea of what to expect to know if this IS something that you want to do with your own dog or help them out when it is convenient for you. There are SOOO many people that go out all gung ho and "I DEFINITELY want to do this" then they find out just HOW time consuming and expensive that it can be and slowly they just \kind of fade away.

I wish I was still in SAR I miss *parts* it horribly!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you! GREAT suggestions and input.

I do realize the time commitment, as well as the financial. That's one of the reasons I've had long conversations with my hubby and have asked him to read through all of the documented requirements, etc. I will need his full support to do this. We don't have any children...or ailing parents to worry about at this point.

It's going to be a while before I actually submit an application, etc. I've got my current three dogs to care for which take up most of my time - anything else that would require such a time & energy commitment would need to involve them. So, I may be looking at a few years or more before any team training (if they even accept me). In the meantime, this waiting period gives me plenty of time to consume as much info as possible.

I wasn't planning on doing the puppy thing again. Have done it enough but I will have to, if this is something I am serious about.

I hear you loud & clear...I do definitely think this is a fit for me. But I am also realistic enough to know that there are aspects of K-9 SAR that I'm just not aware enough of to make a certain decision. Reality checks are sure to follow, lol.

Any experiences you're willing to share, or other suggestions? ...I'm all ears!
 

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Actually when the time comes, an "older", thoroughly tested rescue or breeder hold back dog might be a better option than a pup would be. That way before you adopt/buy you will have an older dog that CAN be thoroughly evaluated AND you can have hip, elbows, back/shoulder xrays to ensure the physical soundness of the dog. You can look for a 9 - 18 month old dog, perhaps a "washed out" police or military dog that has the drive for search but maybe washed out because of the protection aspects. Just make sure to have someone very knowledgable do the testing to ensure the dog will have everything needed for a working dog including health, drive and temperament. A 9-18 month old will give you a MUCH clearer picture than a 7-10 week old pup will.

You will want to spend as much possible time training with the team BEFORE you even have a dog. Most teams will allow you to join and be ground support or they need people at base to help out in other aspects. If you do join the team you can do all of your non-dog related certifications before you even have a dog. It will allow you a LOT of time to learn and give your full attention to whatever courses they require. It will give you time to get to know the team, learn about their dogs, learn about scent, learn about weather and how it affect scent, learn about the "lay of the land" and how THAT affects scent and learn about maps, compasses, packs, survival, first aid, cpr, shelter... I would also strongly recommend taking a K9 first aid and cpr class. Some teams require it but not all.
 

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I wish you the very best with this. It sounds like you are doing all of the ground work. As for an older pup/dog it is a great way to go, my area search dog was a rescue. I got her at over a year old and her foster home thought she was a little neurotic because all she wanted was attention and her tennis ball....all the time!!! Wow, what a dog!!! She certified a little over a year later and at almost 7 she is still the best area search dog on our unit (not due to me she was just a natural and really...that good). Our units other top area search dog (and dual use dog with HRD) was returned to the breeder (our unit commander) at over 3 years old. He is 9 now and still working.

As to the SAR unit not wanting you to volunteer to be a subject and also to learn from them and how to be a flanker....are you kidding? Most units will kill for a willing victim and are happy to teach. You will learn so much before you start your own dog.

A couple of good books are Scent and the Scenting dog, and Search and Rescue, Training the k9 hero.

Again good luck to you.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks to you both for letting me know I've got other options. I was under the impression that I needed to get a puppy. A 9 - 18 month old sounds much better to me.

And, thanks for all the recommendations, experiences and insights - they are invaluable to me. I'll keep you posted as I progress.

I've got a note into the unit in regard to volunteering to be lost for them.

My books came yesterday; Scent and the Scenting dog, and Search and Rescue, Training the k9 hero. These are the ones that the unit tests on at screening day (along with Intro to Search & Rescue). Glad to know that they are exactly the ones recommended here, too!
 

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I miss the trudging in the woods, fields, water. I miss watching my dogs learn and work out problems on their own. I miss watching their confidence and determination grow with each track. I miss being on the real searches and seeing all of our hard work pay off. I miss the demo's and seeing my guys adapting to the age group; schmoozing with the folks at the Sr. Center; playing tug with an entire elementary class and winning and then allowing them to win one too; and trying to sneek snacks (and kisses) from the Girl Scouts.

I don't miss the bickering, backstabbing and gossiping from other "teammates".
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you for sharing...I would feel the same.

Originally Posted By: Amaruq... I would also strongly recommend taking a K9 first aid and cpr class. Some teams require it but not all.
A few years back I took a day's course (k-9 first aid and cpr) with The Red Cross. I was not impressed...and let them know that in a respectful manner.

Are there other recommended organizations that run this course?
 

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If you have the money, I have heard K9Down is excellent
 

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Two of our vets taught the class I took. I will probably be taking another class again through Red Cross. I will let you know what I thnk after....if I remember.


I could see something like this the instructor and materials available would make or break the experience.
 

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My fiance is a firefighter/EMT and also took the K9 Down class last year. The information he learned there has become invaluable! Our female SAR dog got sick just a couple of months ago and he was able to keep her hydrated via IV fluids (of course, she also drank water, just not as much as we would've liked). I would definitely recommend taking this class or something similar!
 

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I think we have to remember - the Red Cross class is targeted to general pet owners. SAR dogs face hazards pet dogs are not quite as likely to face [hit by car, shot,chemical contamiantion, drug needles, wild animals, falls, barbed wire tears, electrical shock, heat exhaustion, near drowning, stick-mouth injuries, etc.]

I think anyone needs to work on getting baseline vitals on their dogs and tracking them during work [I am guilty] and getting the dogs really used to being poked and prodded
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Great insights, Nancy J. And, that K-9 Down course looks very comprehensive...in my opinion, well worth the investment to set aside some funds for that in the future.

Glad, too, to get some feedback from those with direct experience with the K-9 Down course. Thanks, editor2/emily!

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I agree that as far as my experience with the Red Cross, it completely hinged on the instructor. Much like any learning environment, really. My expectations were probably too high, as well. I don't mean to come off like I have a problem with them...but I did then, with that particular instructor. I have taken human cpr and first aid (for my massage license) through the Red Cross and have had GREAT learning experiences over many years.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
While we're on the subject of courses. Anybody from New England (or other folks that are familiar) have a preference for wilderness courses run by AMC or SOLO?
 

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If you follow through with this, some day you may find yourself on a search mission at night in bad weather. You'll be scrambling through rough terrain, using a map and compass to figure out which way to go, and trying to communicate with base with spotty radio contact. There will be a lot going on, but the focus of your attention will be on the behavior of your dog. So anything you can do to make scrambling, navigation, and radio communication second nature will allow you to watch your dog better. Then when you do find a victim, your first aid training may be necessary.

Learning dog handling skills will come when you join a team and watch them work. But there is a lot you can do to prepare yourself prior to joining a team:

- Take up an outdoors activity like orienteering or geocaching. This will give you a purpose for bushwacking through the woods and will help you learn scrambling and navigation skills. You may also become familiar with SAR-prone areas in your region.

- Get an amateur radio license. Study the material and take the online practice tests at qrz.com or eham.net. Then find a local club and take the real test; the questions are all taken from the same pool as the practice tests. The Technician class is not hard to achieve. The radio communication principles you learn will make you a better asset and you can put your call sign on your application.

- Consider advancing beyond basic First Aid/CPR. Take a Wilderness First-Responder course or even become an EMT.

About the documented requirements: they will probably say what minimum attendance at meetings and trainings is required, as well as participation in call outs. But keep in mind that SAR may have a profound impact on your daily life as you strive to make you and your dog the best search dog team you can be. This can be a very positive change, but only if you have solid support from your family members.
 

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I think the divorce rate among SAR folks is VERY high.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Originally Posted By: Nancy JI think the divorce rate among SAR folks is VERY high.
I remember reading that somewhere. I am in a unique situation but this is the very reason I need my hubby to be on the same page as me from the get-go. Too, I have to think that some of these marriages weren't all that stable from the start.

Originally Posted By: dog27
Take up an outdoors activity like orienteering or geocaching. This will give you a purpose for bushwacking through the woods and will help you learn scrambling and navigation skills. You may also become familiar with SAR-prone areas in your region.
Although I enjoy tromping through the woods anyway, I really like the idea of a purpose for bushwhacking. Taking up an activity like those you mentioned sounds like a great suggestion for me. And, thanks so much for all of your excellent advice. I will take heed.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
The rescue team I am hoping to be working with is a non-profit. So, all of my time and financial investment will be volunteering. I don't know if this is true for all teams, in all areas.

What do most SAR people do to finance their work? ...and, how does one work enough but not so much that they cannot go on missions when called?

Are most SAR people self-employed? ...work part-time, work from home? ...independently wealthy? ...use savings? ...retired, of a certain age group?
 

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We apply for grants ask for donations, and most of it comes out of our own pockets.

I know a few wealthy SAR folks and a lot of folks without a lot of money at all .............. if your heart is in it..........those of us not independantly wealhty don't get to travel to all the seminars we would like. Most of us have full time jobs and understanding employers.
 
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