It’s not my husband’s fault he’s a cat lover. His mother was a breeder of champion Burmese cats when he was a kid. He has been known to honk at “Cats Rule, Dogs Drool” bumper stickers. But, since opposites attract, my husband ended up marrying a dog lover. My many pleadings for a dog have been met with a scrunched up face and a shake of the head. “No Dogs”. (So now I am getting my dog fix by volunteering at the Working Dog Center.) Our pet philosophies collided the Friday before Labor Day. All the dogs at the Center live with foster families and one of the foster families was going out of town. They could not take the dog with them and needed someone to watch their dog for 2 days. “Could you take one of the dogs for the weekend?” a staff member asked me. And, it wasn’t just any dog… it was one of Zzisa’s new puppies. A Puppy!!! My little dog-loving heart jumped with glee. I immediately called my husband and braced myself for a heavy negotiation session. I was surprised when he agreed to have a four-legged house guest.
So, Friday afternoon I arrived home with a crate, expandable gate, a suitcase full of dog toys and one very cute Labrador retriever puppy named Pierce. Pierce is as sweet as can be and very well-behaved but being only two months old, requires certain attention. I forgot how much work a puppy can be. Besides the frequent potty walks, Pierce needed someone to pay attention to her and talk to her. Leaving the room was met with howling. Lest our neighbors think I was torturing her, I set up puppy camp in the kitchen. One of us was with her all day, except for nap time. Even my cat-loving husband was won over by the sweet puppy and laid down on the floor with her, “so she’d know it was nap time”.
The weekend went by quicker than I’d like and on Sunday, I returned Pierce to her foster mom. The whole experience made me realize how dedicated the foster families are to our dogs. It is a labor of love. The fosters share their home and hearts with our dogs, knowing that one day, the dogs will graduate and move onto their permanent home. Until that time, those puppies are making dog lovers out of cat people one husband at a time.
Photo of Pierce with foster mom Allison
Mondays, 7:30-8:30p, starts Oct. 27th
$150/6 week session
Click HERE to learn more and register.
Wednesdays, 7:30-8:30p, starts Oct. 29th
$100/4 week session
Click HERE to learn more and register.
Thursdays, 7:30-8:30p, starts Oct. 30th
$160/6 week session
Click HERE to learn more and register.
From the time my son was strong enough to stand, he periodically did something that my sister-in-law dubbed “the happy dance”. Pure joy radiated from his little round face and spread through the rest of his body. He would hoist himself up, holding onto the nearest piece of furniture, get up on his tip toes and step excited back and forth, wagging his rear end and shriek with glee. The happy dance could be brought on by just about any joyous occasion such as me coming home from work, seeing a chocolate chip cookie or playing peek a boo with his Elmo doll. The simple joys of life.
Now that my son is a teenager, he rarely does the happy dance. I was bit sad to think the happy dance was a thing of the past. However, just the other day, I was volunteering at the Working Dog Center and I saw the happy dance! In fact it took a moment to register that I had seen it many times at the center. Many of the dogs do the canine version of the happy dance. Like my son, the happy dance can be brought on by the sight of a favorite trainer, the whiff of a hot dog or the sight of a favorite toy. I have to whisper when I say this, but the sight of a tennis ball (shhh) can send a dignified, highly trained dog into fits of dancing glee.
One has to be particularly vigilant when walking dogs near the training yard or the search building because the sight of either of those can also send the dogs into the happy dance… a wiggling, swaying, prancing, bum wagging “I’ll do anything for a tennis ball” happy dance. Trainers routinely hide tennis balls in only their right pants pocket so the ball is not in the line of sight for the dog (who is trained to always walk on the left side of the handler). There is something profoundly touching about seeing the joy of a dog, playing with his tennis ball after a training session. And even more touching is how the dog’s joy brings a smile to the face of the trainer. Makes me want to do the happy dance.
Photo by Tracy Darling
Patterson, one of Zzisa’s puppies, does the happy dance in anticipation of getting to work.
If you are interested:
STEP 1: visit http://bit.ly/X7RSA6
STEP 2: apply for reference number 58-18408]]>
I sit at my desk listening to the sounds of children playing in the school yard behind my house. On a beautiful September afternoon, the sound of them happily playing some version of tag or chase can get so loud that I sometimes have to close my window if someone calls on the phone. It is a happy, innocent noise and so my window closing is one of a practical matter; I am not annoyed. I can not be annoyed because I remember a similar beautiful September afternoon, thirteen years ago, when there was no noise at all in the schoolyard. There were no sounds of planes flying overhead (my house is on the flight path of planes approaching the Philadelphia airport). In fact, there were no noises at all in my neighborhood. On September 11, 2001, we were all sitting quietly in our houses, watching the news and trying to comprehend the tragedy that unfolded earlier that morning.
Most of us who are old enough, will never forget that day; the question of “what were you doing the morning of 9-11?” eventually comes up in conversation. I remember reading that the search dogs were getting frustrated because they were unable to find survivors. Their years of training did not prepare Thunder, Morgan, Logan (for whom our WDC puppies are named in honor) or any of the other search dogs for the level of frustration they encountered that day.
Thirteen years later we have all become less naïve about our global neighbors. Luckily we have tried to prepare ourselves better for the unexpected, including continued improvement in training methods for search and rescue dogs. So my thanks go out to Dr. Otto, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and this next generation of Thunders, Morgans and Logans. May their efforts enable the children in all school yards play happily every afternoon.
Maxine is one of our dedicated volunteers and will be a contributing blogger, giving readers insight to the daily life at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.]]>
Don’t work a dog? Skilled back-up personnel are essential to maintaining a K9s safety while working.
This class includes a combination of lecture and hands on experience.
Register now, space is limited!]]>
Date: October 10, 2014
Time: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Location: Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Far too often officers are thrown together with minimal experience working with one another when the suspect clearly holds the advantage. In response, participants will be provided techniques critical to a high risk K9 deployment. The participants will have the opportunity to apply these techniques in practical scenarios.
Scenarios will combine factors including weather, terrain, communication, and decision making. K9 officers are urged to bring back-up officers from their department and neighboring departments that they often must rely on.
This training will also offer officers the opportunity to learn tactical veterinary concerns and practices as they relate to the real-world scenarios.
Download information flyer HERE.
Check out other classes at the WDC including
Puppy Socialization – starts Monday, September 8th
Basic Obedience – starts Wednesday, September 10th
Help raise money for the WDC and cheer on Pacy as she throws the first pitch!
Bring the whole family, including the furry 4-legged members, out to watch the Camden Riversharks face off against the York Revolution.]]>
Building searches provide different scenting conditions then what the dogs encounter on the rubble pile.
We expose our dogs to both types of searches to make sure they are prepared for any situation they may encounter in their career. The building we use is four stories tall which allows us to simulate single-story or multi-story search scenarios. Before the dog enters the building to search, we have a person hide in one of the rooms, somewhere in the building.
As the dog become more skilled in buildings searches, we increase the difficulty by adding more than one hidden person and making the person(s) more concealed. In the most advanced training scenarios, the handler is not told how many people are hiding, or where they are. This allows the dog and handler to simulate a real-world deployment and learn to work together to find the missing person(s).
We also use our building search scenarios to introduce the article search. Some of our puppies, including our dogs going into law enforcement, will have careers that require them to perform article searches as part of their job.
Another difference between the rubble searches and building searches is the type of distractions that the dog encounters. While on the rubble pile, there are often numerous spectators, including a few onlookers from the neighboring walking path. In the buildings however, the dog is often more isolated while they are searching. Buildings however, offer their own unique set of distractions. This includes closed circulation systems which move the scent of the hidden person around differently than in the open air of the rubble pile.
Stay tuned for future installments of our Search & Rescue blog to learn more about these talented dogs and their training.
Photo: John Donges, Penn Vet
However, not all of our dogs will go on to make search and rescue their career.
So why do we do this? What’s so important that all we include it in all of our dogs’ Puppy Foundation Training?
Here at the WDC, some of our dogs will graduate and be medical detection dogs (that’s our Diabetes Alert and Ovarian Cancer Detection dog programs). We’ll also train dogs to detect explosives, narcotics, and human remains. In all of these fields, it is very important for our dogs to have a strong desire to hunt and use their nose. The search and rescue training provides an excellent foundation for these skills and serves as a baseline to help us determine which job would best suit the individual dog’s natural talents and abilities.
In addition to using search and rescue as foundation training for dogs in other fields, SAR itself can be split into two main categories based on the environment where the dog works: urban and wilderness. In urban searches, a dog must comb through the rubble of collapsed buildings to find the missing person. Urban searches are often the result of natural disasters including hurricanes or tornadoes, but can also be man-made, as was the case with the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 9/11. Wilderness search dogs often work in parks, forests, and surrounding neighborhoods. Unlike urban searches where the missing person is trapped under the rubble and debris, wilderness searches are often locating missing hikers or children who wondered off and have gotten lost.
While their work environment may differ, both types of search dogs rely heavily on their ability to use their nose and hunt while staying focused on their task without distraction. This strong work ethic is required in all detection dog disciplines and is the reason all of our dogs receive foundation training in search and rescue.
Make sure to check in for more Search & Rescue blog posts!