all photo credits Matt Uhry
Earlier this year we opened up our second round of Lifepoints Adventure Grants, where applicants could share their big dream that was being held back by something - finances, fear, or motivation - that we could help nudge on its way. Sheigh's story about wanting to complete her certification in K9 Search and Rescue to someday help people in the backcountry resonated with us for many reasons. The wilderness, the challenge, the selfless act of wanting to help. We can get down with all that.
Plus, cute dog pictures.
Here's a glimpse at the time Sheigh and Doyle spent at K9SAR training in Cody, Wyoming this summer.
I have a friend who likes to say that anyone dedicated to search and rescue stands about ten feet tall. If I stand up very straight, and stand my dog on my shoulders, we're a couple of inches shy of ten feet.
Doyle is a really good dog. He has the superpower called olfaction, and he knows how to use it. That’s why I got him involved in search and rescue in the first place. He trusts his nose and he works hard to solve odor problems, and I realized that if I can learn to navigate well in the backcountry, to read his behavior in odor better, and get myself up to speed in rendering emergency medical aid then maybe we could be of real use to someone in need someday.
A while back I got an email from two friends on the YODOGS team, the highly respected Yosemite K9 Search and Rescue team. They invited me and Doyle to join them for a training conference in Cody, Wyoming. Training sessions like this give us an opportunity to practice in the field, but also to be exposed to elite teams like YODOGS who we can learn a tremendous amount from through observation.
Getting invited to this conference was a dream - who us? - I couldn’t believe it was real. We live in LA, nestled between two highways, so getting in good mountain training requires at least an hour drive. We make daily use of our local city parks and open spaces, and head out into the backcountry as often as possible, but the Cody conference would give us the the extended training time and extra tools we needed to move forward in our journey to becoming a fully mission ready certified K9 SAR team.
This was not an 'Aha! Moment' though, it was a 'Gah! moment.' Can we step up and train alongside teams from across the nation? Can we afford to make this trip? That's when I saw the Picky Bars Lifepoints Adventure Grant in my timeline and decided to go for it.
We completed our training course in Wyoming, and are now one step closer to becoming a certified K9SAR team. We have passed two very important field tests since then (our 40-acre and our C2) and we have just our mission ready test to go. Every time we train, every time we learn new skills, every time we support a veteran SAR dog team in the field, we add a few centimeters of experience to our SAR clearance.
We still aren't ten feet yet, but we're getting very close.