Search and rescue crews across B.C. gathered in Kelowna this past weekend for canine search and rescue training.
Central Okanagan Search and Rescue dog Chase participated in bettering his skills with handler and volunteer Terry Downs.
“Last year we had 106 calls and about 20 per cent of those are appropriate to Chase,” Downs said. “Where he excels is missing or lost. So, despondent, dementia, Alzheimer’s patients that wander, as well as missing individuals.”
Chase along with SAR dogs from Osoyoos/Oliver, Whistler, and Cranbrook spent Sunday practicing tracking across roadways.
“There’s a science to it and there’s an art to it,” Downs noted. “Sometimes people just cross a road naturally, sometimes they’ll turn 90 degrees, sometimes they’ll back up. So what we’re doing is we’re teaching the dog and also the handler how do you read the dog, how do you know if that person went across or how do you know if they’ve turned left or right, or even backed up.”
Chase assisted in 20 tasks in 2021 with many successes.
“Like anyone who has a skill, it’s a perishable skill. We have to maintain the skills that we have,” Downs said regarding training, commenting on how one dog in the group has been certified for eight years. “All of the dogs that are certified in the province under the RCMP Police Dog Services have to certify every 12 months. We make sure that they maintain their skills, that they keep fresh, keep healthy, and at the same time because it’s a national search and rescue canine standard it’s the same across the country.”
Handlers of these dogs also own them and foot the bill for training and travel across the province, an estimated cost of $10,000 per year.