— image credit: Jocelyn Doll/Campbell River Mirror
Whether it is by helicopter, boat or car, if Daryl Beck or Natasha Provost are asked to bring in their search dogs to participate in a search, they do. Their dogs are trained to get to the scene.
But just because there is a dog on the scene, that doesn’t mean the search is over, Beck said. “I am just one more part or our search organization.”
Dogs take the place of manpower. Beck figures a team of two with a dog can search the same area as a group of 10 people.
“We don’t follow the dog, the dog follows our pattern,” Beck said.
Keeva and Spirit are air scenting dogs. They don’t follow scent on the ground, they look for things that are out of place in the bush. Because of that it is better for them to search when it is cooler out, because as the temperature drops the scent drops closer to the ground as well, Beck explained.
So if they have a choice of areas they are going to search, they might wait for the day to cool off or they might choose a more shaded area.
Provost and Beck have also learned to use the wind and read the geography to better utilize their dogs noses. When tackling a field they work their way into the wind. If there is a ditch or a ravine, they send the dogs to the bottom instead of just walking along the edge.
Part of their search and rescue training is to consider what a person lost in the woods would do, so they will send their dogs over to a grove of trees that might seem like a safe place to hunker down.
The dogs sometimes have to work for hours and hours on end, but one of the most important parts is ensuring their safety and making sure they can still actually do their job.
Spirit cut her paw on a search once, and that was the end of the day for her.
“If they aren’t acting themselves you have to make the decision, is this going to affect the search and if it is you say no we are done we have to stop,” Provost said.
Provost got Spirit specifically to be a search and rescue dog. The first puppy she brought home didn’t have the motivation to do the job, so Provost returned her to the breeder to be re-homed.
“It was a very, very hard and emotional decision, after all the time and money that you put in to training,” she said. “But if my child was out there lost, I know I would want a dog that I know was going to work.”
Beck had a similar experience. He has two dogs of the same breed, Keeva is an amazing search dog and the other is better just as a family pet.