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News: Guest Posts
Super Buddy
German Shepherd saves the day--and a house

Buddy is a hero! Check out the amazing German Shepherd, who led a trooper to a burning building in Alaska--complete with footage shot from inside the cruiser. I love how the officer, who says he has spent a lot of time around dogs, tells a news anchor that he trusted Buddy was leading him (and not just running away)--and that's for sure how it looks. On Friday, Buddy was awarded a special honorary dog bowl.

News: Guest Posts
Recent Reports on Military Dogs
A lot like soldiers—feats of heroism, multiple tours, combat stress

Several news reports this month shed light on the reality of life for U.S. military dogs. What’s clear is that canines have carved out a critical and expanding role many years into the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. They sniff out weapons caches, IEDs, insurgents—and, more controversially, they have been used to frighten and intimidate detainees. They also serve as a comfort to some of the soldiers with whom they work.

 

But they also suffer. According to The Washington Post, 11 dogs have been killed in combat. Others have been wounded and still others seem to be suffering combat stress.   Walter Burghardt, chief of behavioral medicine at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Veterinary Service, has been studying the effects of combat on dogs for two years. He told The Post he doesn’t like to use the term post-traumatic stress disorder with dogs. But, he concedes, “war can affect them emotionally,” claiming antidepressants, more play time and working the job they’ve been trained to do can help.   The servicemen quoted in a Wall Street Journal story by Michael M. Phillips aren’t hesitant to use the term PTSD, especially when they talk about Gunner, a bomb-sniffing Labrador Retriever at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan. Gunner cowers or bolts at a sharp crack, boom, or even the click of a camera shutter; he has been deemed “combat-ineffective.” Another bomb dog, refused to work with Marines for a time after seeing a serviceman shoot a feral Afghan dog. Still others struggle with what appear to be violent nightmares.   And how do we reward them? There’s an effort to create a medal for dogs and a memorial, which won’t make any difference to them. Instead, these service dogs need to be guaranteed treatment for stress for as long as they need it and a good home after they complete their service. (The Humane Society has given the Pentagon good marks for its efforts to provide for retired dogs.) They also need to be protected from exploitation during training and while in a war zone. I was appalled to read in the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago paper, three explosives-detection trainees died and dozens more were rescued in poor health due to the neglect of a private security contractor working for a Navy supplier. That’s obviously unacceptable.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Olympic Dogs
Working pups on the sidelines help make the games safe

I’m still hoping that agility will one day join the equestrian events at the Olympics. But, as it turns out, there are many dogs currently in Vancouver, playing an even more important role at the games.   

A group of American and Canadian canines and handlers are in Vancouver, ready to assist in rescue efforts should there be an avalanche during the competition. 

Being an avalanche rescue team is no easy task, and comes with unique challenges, such as riding in a chair lift and rappelling out of a helicopter. The stringent standards put forth by the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) includes a test that requires dogs to find clothing buried overnight under over two feet of snow.

According to CARDA, a search dog’s sensitive nose and stamina makes it possible to cover one hectare of snow in 30 minutes. The same task would take a human team almost four hours.

For a person buried under the snow, the difference of mere minutes can mean the difference between life and death. It’s amazing, despite all of the technology humans have, that there are just some things that canines can do better.

Avalanche dogs aren’t the only working canines present in Vancouver. Explosive detection and police dogs are also there, helping to create a safe environment for both spectators and athletes. 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Suspect Tells Police Dog To Sit
Man ends up in jail

When a Gainesville man was pulled over for playing his car stereo excessively loud, his reaction was to act out, yell profanities, and generally disrespect the police officers. When officers brought a drug-sniffing police dog to the scene, the man continued to behave badly. Specifically, he gave commands such as “sit” to the police dog, which is considered interfering with a working police animal and is against the law.

  The dog was temporarily distracted from his duties, but resumed his search and found evidence of marijuana in the car. In addition to being in trouble for his behavior towards the police dog, the suspect was charged with disorderly conduct, possession of drug paraphernalia, and refusal to sign the citations related to violating city noise and window tint ordinances.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Providing for War Dogs
Deployed military pups face a shortage of rations.

Military canines in the United States date back to the First World War  Now America has the largest fleet of working dogs in the world with over 2,800 military pups. Over 600 of those dogs are currently deployed in the Middle East, where their handlers face a tough predicament when it comes to the animals’ care. 

The recent increase in troops sent to Afghanistan has led to a surge in military dogs, which has also caused a shortage in quality dog food. These high performing canines are in the field everyday, searching for explosives and accompanying patrolling soldiers. They require a special diet made in the United States that’s high in protein and other nutrients. 

The food is shipped from the U.S. to Pakistan and trucked to the troops in Afghanistan. However, space on the vehicles is limited and the priority is placed on transporting human food and supplies. The unexpected increase in both troops -- human and canine -- has put a strain on the system.

I understand that this is a hard situation all around. I can’t imagine how hard it is to deliver sufficient quality supplies. But it’s ultimately the government’s responsibility to only send troops overseas if their basic needs can be met -- human and canine.

While researching what pet lovers could do to help the K-9 teams, I discovered Girl Scout Troop 60667’s Care Packages for K9s project.  Last November, this group from Macon, Georgia wanted to show their support for military dogs and their handlers. 

The Girl Scouts started Care Packages for K9s to assemble both canine and human supplies such as training aids, grooming tools, medical supplies, and protective gear for the dogs, as well as cards created by the Girl Scouts. As of this month, they’ve collected over $3,000 in donations and have shipped over 360 pounds of supplies and equipment to 32 military working dog teams stationed all over the world.  

While Care Packages for K9s doesn’t send food, the treats and supplies are sure to bring cheer to the handlers and their trusty dogs in Afghanistan.

News: Guest Posts
SAR Dogs in Haiti: Update
Border Collie finds three girls buried alive in rubble
[Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, JoAnna Lou blogged about the amazing work of search-and-rescue dogs and handlers in Haiti. Today, Lisa Wade McCormick followed up with a story about how one dog rescued a few young earthquake victims in a story she wrote for ConsumerAffairs.com—a portion of which is reprinted here.]   Amid the sorrow and despair in the aftermath of Tuesday’s deadly earthquake in Haiti comes news of survival: One of the United States’ top canine disaster search-and-rescue teams on Friday found three girls trapped alive in the rubble of a four-story building.   A Border Collie named Hunter—specially-trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) to locate people buried alive—discovered the young survivors under four feet of concrete and debris. The girls had been trapped nearly 70 hours—since the powerful earthquake devastated the tiny island country.   Hunter and his handler, Los Angles firefighter Bill Monahan, located the girls while searching a large bowl-shaped area near Haiti’s crumpled Presidential Palace. “After crisscrossing the area, Hunter pinpointed the survivors’ scent under four feet of broken concrete and did his ‘bark alert’ to let Bill know where the victims were,” the SDF said in statement. “Bill spoke with the survivors, then passed them bottles of water tied to the end of a stick. As they reached for the water one of the girls said, ‘thank you.’”   Monahan and Hunter are one of six SDF teams deployed with the California Task Force 2 to find victims buried in earthquake’s rubble.   The 72 members of the task force, who have 70,000 pounds of heavy machinery and other rescue equipment, are searching around the clock to find survivors of the cataclysmic earthquake that many fear will claim tens of thousands of lives.   “The teams are working in 12-hour shifts so they have time to rest and recuperate,” said Captain Jayd Swendseid of the California Task Force. “The team is putting in long and exhausting days. Roads are closed and there is a lot of debris that is making transportation difficult, but the team is managing to get to buildings and make rescues. Morale is good and supplies are sufficient so far.”   Valuable Tools The six “live-scent” dogs on the teams are arguably the most valuable tools rescue workers have in a disaster of this magnitude. These elite canines can climb and run across the piles of concrete and other debris in the streets of Port-Au-Prince and determine within three minutes if there are survivors buried below, the SDF said.   Besides Monahan and Hunter, the other SDF canine teams working in Haiti with the California Task Force 2 are: 
 • L.A. County Firefighter Gary Durian and his Golden Retriever, Baxter; 

 • L.A. County Firefighter Ron Horetski and his Lab, Pearl; 
 • L.A. County Firefighter Jasmine Segura and her Lab, Cadillac; 
 • L.A. Country Firefighter Jason Vasquez and his German Shepherd, Maverick; 

 • California civilian Ron Weckbacher and his border collie, Dawson.   Weckbacher is the training group’s leader. He and Dawson have participated in other search-and-rescue operations, including the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina.   Another SDF canine disaster search and rescue team is also on the ground in Haiti. Julie Padelford-Jansen with Miami’s Fire and Rescue Department--and her dog, Dakota--are working with Florida Task Force 1 in the rescue efforts. The SDF also has other canine teams on standby--ready to deploy to Haiti when needed.   “This moment is what SDF Search Teams train for--week in and week out--throughout their careers together,” said SDF founder, Wilma Melville. “When one SDF team succeeds, all of our teams succeed.   “Our thoughts are with our teams in Haiti, who continue to comb the rubble into the night,” she added. “Their perseverance, skill, and strength in the face of extreme challenges make us all proud, and give us hope.”  

The SDF, headquartered in Ojai, California, is the only organization in the country that works exclusively with rescued dogs and trains them to rescue people buried alive. Most of SDF’s 69 canine search teams are certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). That is the highest achievement for search and rescue teams and means they can respond to any disaster.

Read Lisa Wade McCormick's complete story. 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
SAR Dogs in Haiti
Canines from around the world arrive to help the rescue efforts

Over the last week, search and rescue teams have come to Haiti from around the world to help find the thousands of survivors trapped in the rubble.

It always amazes me that, with all the technology we have today, dogs are still the best at navigating disaster areas and locating humans. 

The search and rescue canines that’ve congregated in the disaster area come from all walks of the earth. 

These heroic pups represent several countries and a multitude of different backgrounds. Some were bred specifically for search and rescue, others were family pets first, and some were even former rescues themselves.

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation has deployed several teams out of California and Florida. You can follow their search efforts via their Twitter page, where they’re also posting biographies of the dogs currently hard at work in Haiti. 

I was particularly struck but the story of Baxter, a Golden Retriever who knows what it’s like to be saved. Baxter was adopted from a Northern California shelter four years ago and brought to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation by volunteer and veterinarian Jessica Drew. Baxter quickly proved to be a superstar at search and rescue work.

After basic training, Baxter was teamed up with his search and rescue partner, Gary Durian. But really, it was Baxter who chose the Los Angeles firefighter. When Baxter first saw Gary, he immediately ran over and lay down in front of his future handler.

Just one year after being pulled from the shelter, Baxter and Gary passed their FEMA Certification. They’ve since worked together at both national and local disasters, and are now in Haiti searching for survivors.

Haiti’s devastation is beyond words, but the rescue efforts are nothing short of amazing. It’s inspiring to see humans and canines from all over the world, working together to help Haiti in its darkest hour. 

Donations can be made to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation through their web site.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Scent Lineups
Properly harnessing the power of the canine nose

Police have long relied on dogs to uncover illegal drugs, negotiate disaster areas, and find fugitives on the run. More recently, law enforcement officials have started to use canine scent lineups where dogs choose a suspect’s smell out of a group of people.

The dogs are given the target scent from items found at the crime scene and then walked by a lineup of containers that contain scent swabs from a group of people including the suspect. The dog identifies a scent match through a trained signal, often a bark.

In 2004, the F.B.I published a report saying that the use of scent dogs was a proven tool that could establish connection to a crime, but should not be used as primary evidence.

Many states, including Alaska, Florida, New York and Texas, currently use scent lineups, but the technique has been problematic, leading some courts to reject scent lineup evidence. There is no doubt that dogs can accurately identify a match, but critics say that the possibility of cross-contamination is too great. 

The most famous scent dog handler, Deputy Keith A. Pikett of the Fort Bend County Texas Sherrif’s Department, has performed thousands of scent lineups since the 1990s. Pikett fell into field when he and his wife trained their Bloodhound, Samantha, to follow scents for fun. They started volunteering to search for lost children, added more Bloodhounds, and soon their services grew into an unintentional career.

Recently, some of the people Pikett helped convict have been cleared through DNA, resulting in a number of lawsuits. The Innocence Project estimates that 15-20 people are in prison based solely on Pikett’s scent lineups, even when it conflicted with other information.

I hate to see a potentially valuable tool be dismissed because it wasn’t used properly. I think that with the right protocol and standard procedures, scent lineups could find their place in law enforcement.

News: Guest Posts
Life with an Autism Service Dog
Part V: Pup-Peronies, fan clubs and channeling Temple Grandin

[Below are three excerpts from Michelle O’Neil’s blog about her daughter Riley’s autism service dog.]

 

Give That Dog A Treat!
Riley is not allowed to go on the Internet without permission. Period. Today she did it, and I had to follow through with consequences, banning her from the computer for 24 hours. She pitched a very big fit, screaming and stomping all the way up to her room. Jingle followed her. I grabbed two Pup-Peronies from the kitchen cabinet, and marched upstairs to her room. Jingle stood on the floor beside the bed, watching Riley carry on.

I pressed the Pup-Peronies into Riley’s hand, and walked out of her room, closing the door behind me. As I shut the door, I saw Jingle hop up on the bed. She loves Pup-Peroni.

Riley and Jingle remained in her room for about ten minutes. Then they came downstairs, and Riley played happily with her brother for the rest of the evening. No more meltdowns. No talk of the computer.

I’ve been finding when Riley is upset, if I just put the Pup-Peroni in her hand, she starts breaking off pieces and feeding them to Jingle. The change of focus, feeding the treats, seems to put Riley’s brain on pause long enough to hop off the fret merry-go-round, the continuous loop of upset that can often go on for an hour or more.

This was the first time I left them alone behind closed doors to work it out. Riley is the kind of kid who can’t tolerate unkindness to anyone, especially animals. She implodes, rather than lashing out, so I knew Jingle was safe with her.

It felt liberating to be able to hand off to the dog, what might have taken me much longer to accomplish. No twenty minute “talking it through” going around and around in circles.

We wound up having a great night.

Thank you Jingle.

The Jingle Club
Jingle has a fan club. Everyday after school, she is mobbed by children and grown-ups on the playground while Riley swings and Seth plays. There were a bunch of little girls who used to play “kitty cat club,” where they would all pretend to be cats, but they’ve changed it to The Jingle Club. They form a huddle around Jingle, and chant, over and over, “We love you Jingle! We love you Jingle! She’s a good girl! We love you! We love you!” There are so many children around her you can barely see Jingle in there, rolling on her back in ecstasy, absorbing all the attention.

In the photo, left, Jingle wears the hat of one of the girl’s mothers.

This rescued puppy from Kentucky is doing pretty well for herself. I guess that’s what happens when you radiate pure joy, and love everyone you meet.

Maybe I’ll try it.

Channeling Temple Grandin
We hang a bag of recyclables on a door knob between the kitchen and the hall leading upstairs. It’s elegant, yes.

Jingle over the last few days had developed a phobia of the area. So I channeled Temple Grandin and put myself in Jingle’s place. What I discovered through my detective work is this:

When Jingle passes through the aforementioned area, her wagging tail thrashes the recycle bag, making a scary clatter. She is convinced there is a loud monster behind the door, waiting to get her. In fact, she’d taken to checking behind the door before proceeding very cautiously, and only if you had a treat in plain sight to motivate her. She was basically terrified to leave the kitchen.

So, we took the recyclables off the door knob, and I had her walk the dreaded two foot path one billion times last night, feeding her minuscule pieces of Pup-Peroni. She is 99% over her fear.

Dr. Grandin, I hope I did you proud.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
There’s A Dog at School Full Time
His job is drug enforcement

There’s a new staff member at school, and he works cheap! Raidin is a five-year-old Belgian Malinois and he was taught to detect four basic smells at Kingman High School: marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Like many dogs, his training is about finding specific substances rather than apprehending and subduing suspects. His searches are usually in buildings, vehicles and parking lots, and never on students.

  If Raidin signals that he smells drugs on a student, he has to be pulled away, because to search a student would violate that student’s Fourth Amendment Rights regarding unreasonable search and seizure. Although Raidin’s detection skills have led authorities at the school to find marijuana in backpacks, in a locker and in a classroom, the hope is that Raidin’s presence will serve as a deterrent for students who would otherwise bring drugs to school.   Raidin’s reward for working is play. Like many members of his breed, he has a high play drive, and he has been taught to expect a game of catch when his handler cues him that it’s time to work because the game always follows the work session.      

 

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