Saturday, January 26, 2013

A School for Dogs

Last month, I went to school for 5 days.  At least, it was called Canine Search Specialist School, but what it really meant was 5 days to play in Disaster City.  Every morning started with obedience (not my favorite part of the day), and each day ended with training (my favorite part of the day).  And one night when it was dark, I searched Rubble Pile 1.  That was different, because all of the shadows made the pile look not the same as when it is daylight.  There was a moon in the sky, but that is not as bright as the sun.  And Angie had a flashlight on her helmet.  One thing was the same….I got to play with a toy when I found somebody!

The obedience was sort of fun.  There were 17 dogs, and one day we all stood in a long line while our humans walked away.  We had to stay right there until we were called.  Another day it was the same thing, but we had to run through toys, cat food, balls, and people making noise.  One dog ran all the way but then turned around to pick up the cat food!  And one dog was only 10 months old and could not be with the rest of us.  He was just too young and nervous.

There were three people there from Australia.  Not sure where that is, but they talked in a way I have never heard before.  And there were lots of labs like me, and a few dogs with pointed ears like Sasha.  There was a black lab who was bigger than Sasha.  Now that is a giant dog for sure!

We got to go through a real tunnel, not the one on the agility field.  This was under Rubble Pile 1.  One of the ladies from Australia went first, then me, and then Angie crawled behind me.  If I tried to get ahead of them, I would hear, “Sammie, turn, good girl.”  I wanted to go faster, but they wanted me to stay with them, so I did.

At night, I stayed in a hotel room with Angie, another dog, a lab named Phluke, and his human.  I did not sleep as well as I do at home, but since I worked every day, I was kind of tired.  It is good to be home now.  I hope that I will see some of these dogs again, and that we can have more fun at my favorite place, Disaster City.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Distractions

Just so you know, my job is not always that simple.  That’s because sometimes, I don’t know why, well, really I do know, there are “distractions” that are all around the search area.  Here are some examples of what these might be:
  1. Food that I like but cannot have (my favorite food is garlic bread, but I like steak, chicken, cheese, and pasta).
  2. Dirty clothes that smell good to me (my favorites are sheets, towels, and socks).
  3. Animals (cats, cats, and more cats).  There have also been dead fish, and live birds.  Are fish animals?  I don’t know, but they smell good in a bad kind of way.  Oscar never comes out to the search area, just in case you were wondering.
So here is the reason that my job is not simple.  I have to ignore all of them, and just search for a person.  I have seen dogs bark at food, and that is just wrong.  We are only supposed to bark when we smell live people, nothing else.  It is okay to take a quick sniff and move on.

One time, I was on a real search after a tornado, and I had to search a school to see if there was anybody there.  And one of the rooms must have been where the kids eat lunch, because there were milk cartons, cookies, and all kinds of food smells.  And in another part of the school, there were “babies”…that is what I call stuffed animals.  Listen, I just had to do my job and as much as I might have been interested in those distractions, I had to leave them alone.

So we train around the kinds of stuff that might be around a search area, so that we learn that we are out there for one reason only…to look for a real, live person!