Responding to a callout with our search dog is the culmination of years of training and thousands of dollars. While the motivation to be a K9 handler comes from somewhere deep inside us, we know we couldn’t do it alone.
As we watch handlers from across the country respond to Hurricane Laura, we are reminded of the invaluable contribution of our support team and their sacrifices that make it all possible.
Training a search dog requires hours of time each week, often on nights and weekends. Not to mention numerous overnight trips away from home to attend workshops and certifications. That doesn’t even consider the actual cost of all that training (e.g., fuel, food, lodging).
It’s kind of like having a part-time job we pay to have.
Then comes the callouts. Let’s be honest, they never come at a good time. The phone always rings right when you’re getting ready for a birthday dinner or that long overdue date night. Or, as for our handlers currently deployed, the first week of back-to-school in a pandemic.
Our families make sacrifices to allow us to be K9 handlers and even when they may not want to, they send us out the door with their love and support. We are forever grateful. We couldn’t do it without you!
Here at CFTE, family doesn’t just mean relatives. It also includes all those who step up and step in to support us in our work. From words of encouragement, to helping us with training, to watching our young handful of a puppy when we get deployed.
Those who choose to stand by us even though they don’t have to—we see you. And couldn’t do it without you either.
Most K9 handlers are volunteers who have careers in all different fields: professors at universities, veterinary technicians, lawyers, teachers and IT consultants. Employing a search and rescue handler means they willingly incur some risk, like missing manpower. In the case of a callout, they often only get an hour or two notice to find a fill-in. By giving us the flexibility and support to be a handler, our employers play a critical role in the search efforts by making it possible for us to respond when needed.
Even for those in the fire service whose role as a K9 handler may be part of their job, it is an added commitment from the department. Creating opportunities to incorporate canine is an investment of time, money, and policy.
For all the ways our employers make it possible for us to continue to make a living while training and deploying with our search dogs, we are so appreciative and know we are fortunate.
Kathleen Kelsey, Co-Founder CFTE Online, has been training search and rescue dogs since 2003 and is a Canine Search Specialist for FEMA Missouri Task Force One and McLean County Illinois EMA. She works both live find and human remains detection dogs and provides K9 assets for local law enforcement and deploys around the country in response to natural and manmade disasters. Kathleen also serves an instructor and evaluator for multiple national search dog organizations and provides training instruction and certification for K9 teams to help ensure superior canine resources are available to communities in their time of need. Kathleen is the owner of Working Dog Enterprises which specializes in advancing the detection dog through research and education. She is also the founder of Calvary Canine, a non-profit that provides training support to search and rescue dogs. Kathleen is committed to the education of K9 handlers and joined the Center for Forensic Training and Education as their Online Program Manager to ensure quality training is accessible to handlers of every skill level and affiliation.