The LCSTARs page was established to recognize the achievements of team members who have gone above and beyond the necessary requirements to be a professional search and rescue person. They are truly an inspiration to other team members. It is also about getting to know our fellow team members and getting a peek at what makes them tick and some insight into the diverse kinds of people that join the SAR community and what they find so captivating about their experience.
by Julie Rasmussen -- Published Spring 1993
Search dogs of LCSAR are this edition's focus of LCSTARS. These dedicated canines train extensively with their handlers to learn what is expected of them as well as teach their handlers how to read their cues. All are either certified in air scent or working toward air scent certification. Each spoke to us through interpreters who gave us their stories.
DUKE: Despite being sprayed by a skunk and causing mild pandemonium among the testers, Duke successfully found his subject the evening of a night test in Lory. He had run the skunk out of the brush but then started to walk away. When the others came to see, the skunk turned around, charged at Duke and Cheryl Kennedy and stomped his feet. Both of them were sprayed. Although inconvenienced with the odor, he was still able to distinguish his subject's scent and find her.
Since he was 8 weeks old this lovable Rottweiler has been training with SARDOC (Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado). Now 4 years old and certified since November 1991, Duke participates in searches, acts as co-presenter at Hug-a-tree programs and has received the Canine Good Citizen award as well as a "slime award" for bestowing the sloppiest kisses. To help kids learn about and become more comfortable with search dogs he models his harness and bells and lets the kids play with him.
Duke and Cheryl's most memorable mission was in RMNP on a search for a young girl. It was unique in that he knew where she was but she had fallen and he couldn't get to her. He worked his heart out sensing the seriousness and intensity of the situation. Since that mission his attitude toward searching has changed, as though something had been triggered in him that night. He seems to more clearly know his purpose and when it's no longer a game.
In the future Duke will continue public relations work and may train in water search as well as work as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs must be wc11 behaved and have a good temperament. Oftentimes there are people in hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons that can relate better to animals than people. Therapy dogs give them something to focus on and interact with.
HEIDI: Heidi is currently working toward air scent certification and will attempt testing later this year. Handler, Estelle Purvis, started her German Shepherd on games of hide and seek when they lived in Arizona. Four years ago, while living in Arizona, she was awarded the obedience AKC title of C.D.T. which stands for companion dog tracking .. Heidi is now 10 1/2 years old and has been training with SARDOC for 2 years.
JESSE: Jesse's strength lies in her love for people. She seems to have few fears and is friendly but not aggressive. A good example is from one of her first missions in RMNP for a two year old girl. Although Jesse had not found the little girl she was anxious to meet her. As she approached she noticed the girl had a cookie which Jesse probably thought she'd be willing to share. The picture on TV showed Jesse helping herself to the cookie of her new friend. Jesse began training at 8 months old. That was in 1987. Terry Govan, her handler, had her before joining the team and after joining took her Golden Retriever to a practice and found that she did real well. She is now 6 1/2 years old and certified for air scent.
A memorable search for both Jesse and Terry was for a suicide subject found near Greyrock in 1989. The wind had shifted and when she caught the scent from the bottom of the hill she wagged her tail just as she usually does when she has a find. They had been checking the high points but down at the bottom of the hill was where they found the body.
A goal of theirs is to experiment with more than one scent article. If more than one person is lost Terry wants to see if Jesse can distinguish between scents- to ignore other scents and realize that there is more than one person to find. Another goal is to work on water search technique. Occasionally they do PSAR programs like Hug-a-tree. Terry is learning to read her better and becoming more efficient and fine-tuned with their technique.
Kl: Ki is a youngster among his companion search dogs. He began training at 6 weeks of age and will be 3 years old in May. For a Border Collie he is about twice the size of other Border Collies says handler, Steve Lauerman. This is• a result of breeding, good food and lots of exercise. Steve spent about a year looking for a good, smart working dog before picking Ki from the litter. Ki has been trained to follow commands in Swahili, the language Steve brought back from his 4 years in East Africa where he lived 20 years ago. The purpose of teaching Ki Swahili was so that he would not be confused with other handler's commands and so that Steve would have control over what he would obey. This has worked effectively .for Steve since each dog follows the commands of their handler.
Ki has been certified since August 1992 in air scent. His first "find" was in October of that year for a hunter. Apparently, the reporting party had given an incorrect LSP. Ki worked a trail that was 14 hours old to establish the correct LSP and from there they were able to make voice contact with the subject.
Goals for Ki are to certify in avalanche as well as disaster search. According to Steve, Ki has shown the agility and directional control needed for this specialty of search work.
KIRI: Kiri was 12 weeks old when she started training for search. She first learned trailing and is now working on becoming air scent certified. Unfortunately, she developed dysplasia and had to have her left hip replaced. This operation set the 6 year old German Shepherd back about 1/2 year in training but she's healing and doing well says her handler, Klaus Hoffmann. The first date for Kiri's airscent test is tentatively scheduled for the middle of April. If she passes she will have two more tests before becoming airscent certified. Klaus anticipates working her for 5 to 6 more years.
Kiri is a very friendly dog and looks forward to "the find". She's rewarded and feels gratified when she can clean the subject's face at the end of search. She gets excited about going on search practices and knows that when the collar goes on it's time for work. No more play, for now!
Kiri is well acclimated to cold weather since she stayed outside or in the garage even during the coldest winter nights. She'll be comfortable on even the chilliest night searches.
SADIE: For Sadie, a 3 year old Australian Shepherd, some of the most gratifying work she does is search practice demonstrations for the Boy Scouts and school classes. While demonstrating at a school playground, the kids will leave her scent articles, like their hat, so she can go find them.
Friendliness is a special quality of Sadie's. She is definitely part of the group and could be left at incident base, comfortable with everyone else around. Being people oriented, she remembers subjects she has found before and is particularly fond of. She lets Hanna know that she has ''found" them - again!
Sadie first started training with SARDOC when she was 9 weeks old. She recently passed the first of her 3 tests for airscent certification and anticipates completing the other 2 within the next few weeks. Her handler Hanna Brehler, has noticed that even when there is other wildlife around Sadie can concentrate on the task at hand with little distraction. She knows the difference between work and play and can be trusted to focus on her work when it's time.
Her goals are to become certified in water and avalanche search as well as have a long-term working relationship with Hanna doing SAR activities. Another goal is to work with other dog handlers to promote professionalism within the organization. Hanna predicts that Sadie should be going strong until she is at least 13 or 14 years old.
TASSIE: The Tasmanian devil (Tassie for short) is a breed known by two names: Australian cattle dog or Queensland Healer. Tassie was born on Christmas and acquired by her owners, Julie and Bill Cotton, when she was five weeks old. She is now four. Originally they were not planning to train her for search but she had to focus her energy somewhere and search give her a purpose.
She's been training since September 1989. Tassie has been airscent certified for wilderness search since December 1990 and has participated in numerous wilderness searches. She is currently working on avalanche certification. This consists of looking for subjects partially or fully buried in three or more feet of snow. She has participated in three water searches with two finds. One of the water searches was in Hawk Springs, Wyoming.
She has received the Canine Good Citizen award which is a test given to dogs to see how well-mannered they are. The test consists of six stations for the dog to run through. It is a "must have• course for therapy dogs. When she is not working, she is out enjoying other activities. Says Tassie, "I'm at my best when I can hike all day long. I like to ride in the bike trailer and on the motorcycle sidecar. I love snow, and I love to look at cows. Everyone knows when I am around. I would rather not be petted, but I sure like to play!" Thanks to the dogs and their handlers for supplying information for this edition of LCSTARS. Your hours of dedicated training time are a priceless contribution as well as a source of team pride.