Monday, October 22, 2012

Saddle Up!

Loading the bus
We were all checked out and ready to go on the deployment, and then about 05:30 in the morning we heard: “Saddle up… saddle up”! It’s so exciting! We’re going to get to ride a horse! Angie gets me and we walk outside to… a bus? Well, that’s cool, too, but I was expecting to go on a horse. Why’d they say, “Saddle up?” I have a special mat that Angie lays down for me to sleep on the bus. We were told by the bosses to get some sleep. We were going to Alexandria, Louisiana. We had a big meeting hall at Fort Polk, just outside of the city where we were going to eat and sleep until we got called forward. I heard some of the guys talking and it seems we were going to do search and rescue operations for a Hurricane named “Isaac.” I wonder if mom doesn’t tell me because she thinks I’ll worry. I love finding people that are lost, so a big storm would be the last thing I would worry about… But I know she is just looking out for me.

Boy, did we sleep! Even though we were on a bus, I slept like a puppy! When we got to Fort Polk, everyone immediately got to work. We had crates set up in a special place away from the main group, which was fine. I love all my teammates, but to tell the truth, a lot of them snore, and I wake up sometimes thinking there is a bear in the room. All of our handlers and the rest of the search team set up cots near us.

Each day we waited for a mission. We watched the local teams respond to one rescue after another. My teammates were really proud of what the people of Louisiana were doing for themselves. They did GREAT!

We were put on “Ready/30” status. Ready/30 means that if we get a call for a task, we have 30 minutes to be on the bus and out the door. We got a call the second or third day, with a possible mission. It was so cool!  Ian’s handler took all of us out of the crate and asked us to lie down. We were excited, but we could see just how serious all of teammates were, so we did perfect down stays. While they broke down our crates and loaded all their gear, there was a time when nobody was in the room except the four of us… four dogs laying in a perfect row. My dog-mates tried to talk me into going to check and make sure we had not been forgotten, but I knew when I was asked to stay, I was supposed to stay. It seemed like forever, but then one-by-one, each of our handlers came back, put our leashes on, and we raced to the bus. Finally, we were going to get to help someone! We no sooner got on the bus, than we were given the order to stand down. The State of Louisiana had taken the mission. I was disappointed at first, but mom reminded me, “It’s not what we do… but what we are ready and willing to do.” Besides, it was another example of just how great a job the state rescue people were doing.

One of the best things in Louisiana was getting to help teach a class… yes, ME! We had to train a little every day. It was good to see that humans have to practice, too. Wookie’s mom, Angie & I got to teach the Task Force members stuff to help them rescue dogs and cats. That is actually part of the humans’ job when they are deployed. I was happy to help. Wookie’s mom showed everyone how to put a muzzle on a dog so that, if injured, it wouldn’t bite. I’d never bite on purpose, but if I was scared... well, it’s kind of like when people are upset and sometimes say stuff they don’t mean. We don’t talk in a way that people easily understand, so we sometimes bite, instead. Angie taught everyone about K9 body language and how you can often read what we are saying, even if we can’t use human words. I role-played the victim dog, so they could put the muzzle on me and show how to safely approach me, had I really been injured. My performance was stellar! 

The next day we got orders, but not the kind I expected. We were being demobilized. That means they were sending us home. No search and rescue task this time, but that’s OK… I was ready and willing to do whatever they asked! From what I learned, that was my job!!! 

See you on the pile!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A hurricane means we go to work!

Well, I knew something was up, and soon I found out what it was – we were going on a deployment!  Angie was on the phone, and the only thing I heard her say was “01:30.” She hung up and looked at me and said, “You ready to go to work?” 

She’d just told our Task Force that we’d be there at 1:30 in the morning. We were going somewhere to help somebody that was in trouble. I went into the bedroom with Angie. When she puts her uniform on, I always get excited. It’s different, though when she is on a real mission. She is serious, so I get serious.  (I tried to anyway…I’m not very good at getting serious.) She got dressed QUICK! Another thing that is different when we go on a real mission is that Kip and Chris meet us at the door when we leave. They always hug me and tell me to “be careful.” Chris tells me he loves me. Kip tells me, “Take care of your mom.” He tells Angie he loves her, but he always tells me first. It makes me feel really good.

Well, we take off to College Station, which is where Texas Task Force 1 is based. It takes us over two hours to get there. I usually sleep on the way, but I was too excited. Angie kept telling me to “relax,” “chill out,” “calm down,” “settle”… all that stuff, but I was just too excited. Every now and then, I’d whine a little. I couldn’t help myself! We finally got there at about 01:15 a.m. and I wasn’t tired a bit.  

We went into the hangar, which is a really big place. There is more stuff there than you could imagine! They have boats to rescue people in water, and some of the boats are made for going in water that moves really fast, like in a flood. They have huge 18-wheel trucks that take massive stacks of stuff like tents and cots for us to build a place to stay in when we get there. These trucks also carry saws, and drills, and other equipment for our rescue guys to use to save people when I find them. They also carry medical stuff for our team doctors, to take care of us if we get injured or the victims that we rescue. All the guys and gals on the Task Force say hello to me when we walk in. They say hello to Angie too, but they say hello to me first which makes me feel really good.

We have a special area just for the dogs, so we can rest and be ready work when the time comes. Angie has other stuff to do, meetings, and medical checks, and stuff, so she takes off and I just hang out in the crate. I’m the first dog there! Not long after, though, one of my buds arrives.  Ian is a Black Lab, like me.  He is cool!  His mom also has stuff to do, so she drops him off in the crate next to me and heads out. We make small bark, and then Mandy, a Yellow Lab, comes in. Yea!

When we go out the door on a real mission, we usually have four dogs. So, we were trying to guess who the fourth dog was, when in walks Wookie. It’s always good to have Wookie around. I was really young when I got on the team and some of the dogs, who were all bigger than me then, kind of scared me… but not Wookie. Wookie is a Black Lab, too, but he is so goofy you can’t help but smile when you’re around him. 

We’d been there about an hour when it was time for our medical check. Since our Task Force is part of Texas A&M University, we have vets from the School of Veterinary Medicine give us exams before we go out the door. They check our temperature, move all of our legs around, and check to make sure we’re not injured or sick. My favorite part is when they make Angie and I run across the floor so they can make sure I’m moving OK… What a Joke!!! Angie is so slow compared to me, it’s barely a trot! Mandy, Wookie and Ian were all laughing too! 

Next time, I’ll tell you about our deployment.