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Send in the hounds!

Posted by: tdt -

  The Dalhart Police Department regularly participates in the training of search and rescue (SAR) and human remains detection (HRD) cadaver dogs. The department sponsored training was held on Saturday, April 11th in the Bow Hunter’s Club off of Lake Drive. Channing’s Fire Chief and members of the Amarillo Alliance of Search K9s based in Canyon also participated with their dogs.

Canine members of the Dalhart Fire Department included Max and Jake, two pure bread Blood Hounds owned by Fire Chief Curtis Brown and Paramedic DeNisa Brown, and firefighter Donnie Peterson. The two Blood Hounds are still pups, but their training began when they were just weeks old. Chaser participated with Channing Fire Department Fire Chief Jeremy Tunnell and his wife, Trista. Chaser is also a Blood Hound and had a very successful day of training. From the Amarillo Alliance of Search K9s were four German Shepherds; Jerry Lee, JJ, Zoey and Nikki with handlers Chuck and Sue Doxon of Canyon. Tammy Willard from Tucumcari brought Doberman Pincher, Bitty.

SAR and HRD dogs are an important part of fire and rescue teams and departments. Handlers train the dogs several times each week. Their purpose is to find missing persons and cadavers. The dogs typically run in small teams on foot, and in some cases, work from horseback. SAR and HRD dogs are able to detect human scent. They are able to distinguish the scent of different people. During training exercises they are able to locate several individuals who participate as "victims."

SAR and HRD dogs are either airscenting or trailing/tracking. They may be further classified as scent or non-

scent discriminating. The dogs may also be trained for particular types of conditions, such as in snow, desert or water locations or mountains. Several of the dogs that particpated during Saturday’s training have successfully located missing people. Sue Doxon stated, "The dogs do know the difference between training and a real search. Zoey, who is usually very vocal, becomes very quiet and serious when the search is for real."

Chuck Doxon’s dogs are Jerry Lee, a male German Shepherd, certified and trained in cadaver, air scent specific, and non-specific and classified as tracking/trailing, and Zoey, a female white German Shepherd, certified and trained in cadaver, air scent specific, and non- specific, tracking/trailing. Sue Doxon’s dogs are JJ, a female German Shepherd, certified and trained in cadaver, air scent specific, and non-specific, tracking/trailing, and Nikki, a male German Shepherd, trained in cadaver, air scent specific and non-specific. Tammy Willard’s dogs are Jack, a male Doberman, who is NOSDK certified in cadaver, trained in evidence and is air scent non-specific, and Bitty, a female Doberman, who is NASDN certified in air scent non-specific, and trained in cadaver and air scent specific.

Max and Jake are headed to Nebraska this week to become certified. Chaser is ready for certification and will make the trek to Nebraska soon. Trista rescued 1 ½-year-old Chaser about five weeks ago from the Amarillo Humane Society and has been training with him for about three weeks. Trista stated, "Chaser has picked up on the training extremely fast and is already ready for certification." Trista trains with Chaser nearly every day in Channing and has trained with the Dalhart Fire Department about four times. The Tunnell’s stated they are very fortunate to have found Chaser who has taken to his new home and duties quite well.

Saturday’s weather was rainy and cold, but the dogs were not deterred. For the dogs, a successful find leads to play time, which they never seem to get enough of. Tammy Willard explained that when puppies are just beginning to learn, they play a game called "puppy run-a-ways." The handler, with treat in hand, lies on the ground. The puppy is about 30 feet away with another handler. "We call the puppy and we get very excited, but the other person holds onto them until they are really excited too. When they are let go, they just run toward you full force and they are rewarded with the treat. Then, they do the same thing to go back to the other person." Mrs. Willard stated.

The Doxon’s and Mrs. Willard are members of the Amarillo Alliance of Search K9s, a highly trained group of search and rescue volunteers that reside in the Texas panhandle and eastern New Mexico. Their training includes man tracking, line search, communications, and compliance with NIMS and filling positions in the Command and General Staff. As volunteers, members are required to have completed ICS100, ICS200, ICS300, and NIMS IS700 certifications. In addition to this, all have been through the AWR-160 WMD Awareness, First Aid, CPR, and AED for infant, child and adult. Members have completed the HazMat awareness class through the Pampa Fire Department. All members are versed in communications and are also able to use maps and compasses, as well as GPS. Most of the members have completed the PACE certification test required by the New Mexico State Police to be included in their resource list for deployment on searches within the state.

In addition to the numerous qualifications and training, members are also K-9 handlers. Training includes wilderness, air scent and scent specific, article identification, tracking/trailing, and land and water HRD, and disasters such as tornadoes. K-9’s are cross-trained, mainly due to the locations and the callouts that the members respond to. The members respond to calls from Law Enforcement or Emergency Management anywhere in the states of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas.