Thursday, June 25, 2015

Women's Club of Lakeside Welcomes Search Dog

Lakeside, Calif.-

The Women's Club of Lakeside held their monthly meeting on Thursday, June 25, 2015, and invited Engineer Rich Smith from Station 3 to give an overview of Lakeside Fire Protection District's search dog program.  The Women's Club has chosen the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (NDSDF) for a fundraising event in September.  Bella, a purebred Labrador retriever, is a member of Lakeside Fire and a part of the NDSDF.  Her handler, Engineer Smith, gave an excellent presentation of the program and the path of becoming a handler.

Engineer Rich Smith

The NDSDF was formed after the bombing in Oklahoma City. A need was identified by the founder, also a K9 handler, to have more canine search teams, not only for violent attacks but also for natural disasters. The first training facility was at Sundowners Kennels in Gilroy, CA.  How are the dogs chosen?  Each week throughout the country, teams go to nearby animal shelters and test which dogs might have the propensity for focused attention, obedience to commands and a "high drive."  Generally, these dogs are from the retriever family, whether pure bred or mixed breed.  Most of the time the dogs are days from being euthanized.  After being rescued from the animal shelter, the dog is vet checked, hips x-rayed, and sometimes sent to a "surrogate" family to learn basic obedience for a short period, until they can be delivered to the newly constructed, multi-million dollar National Training Center (NTC) in Ojai, CA to start the formal NDSDF program, which takes approximately 8-12 months. To fully train a dog the cost is approximately $100,000. When the dog completes the training, handlers are invited to the NTC to be matched to a dog by the trainers. The dog then continues to train with their handler and the goal is to become FEMA certified within the following year.  Every three (3) years, the search team has to be recertified.  In San Diego, attached to USAR California Task Force 8, there are only five (5) FEMA certified dogs, and are assigned to fire departments in San Diego County.   Each month, the handlers meet in various locations to practice honing the dog's skills by finding people in simulated natural disasters.  While Bella is not a family pet, she receives much attention (and love) by fellow firefighters at Station 3.

Bella and Engineer Smith will be demonstrating search skills during our Open House at Station 3 in October. 

Engineer Smith, Bella, and Barbara Whitlock of the 
Women's Club of Lakeside

For more information on the Women's Club of Lakeside fundraising event, click here.

Story and Photos by M. Brown, Lakeside LVG

No comments:

Post a Comment