Our dogs are part of their handler's family. They live inside our homes, go to work with us and while on duty are part of the crew and go into a kennel only when we have to leave on a call or training that is not dog related. Once they are past the puppy stage our newer stations have individual dorm rooms so most dogs have dog beds placed under our bunks and are happy to catch a short nap when we have to leave them behind while at work.
To really explain you would need to stop by our weekly training and talk in person. You cannot put a value on your time and training does not just happen at our rubble sites. To do this right and at a professional level it is a life style...very similar to raising a child. You are never done and there is always more you want to teach your dog. While each handler donates their time there is a dollar value. Best estimate would be approximately $15,000...Initial purchase/rescue of a pup or young adult, Vet care, food, toys, equipment, travel for training and testing and an occasional couch or car seat adds up :>). Hitting that donate button at the bottom of our Home page helps a lot!!!!!!!!!!
Rescue involves locating and extrication of victims. Recovery missions are intended to locate victims that did not survive the disaster and bring them home to their family and friends. We do not cross train our dogs. We have dedicated dogs that search for live victims and recovery dogs that are specifically trained to alert on deceased victims.
Our dogs are attached to Arizona Task Force 1, an Urban Search and Rescue Team. They deploy to disasters such as The World Trade Center and Hurricane Ike on Galveston Island along with local wide area searches from neighborhoods in Show Low to wilderness settings outside Globe and Sierra Vista.
We start training right away. We try to fly to the pup and bring them home in cabin on the plane. We want to control each experience and watch over them morning, noon and night. We let them progress at their own speed and make sure we do not make any mistakes. Fear is something that can stay with a pup their entire life. They may grow out of certain aspects of a negative experience with another dog or a fall for example, but they never completely forget fear. If we do not know the outcome of an exposure to a new dog or moderate rubble we do not put them in that position. Meeting a new dog is accomplished with a team dog where we know it will be a fun and rewarding adventure for the pup. Exposure to rubble is taken in baby steps...the pup progresses at their own pace.
That is a difficult question. We cannot have a group of seniors retire at once and expect pups to fill their shoes. We try to layer in our dogs at different ages and levels of experience. Once a disaster search dog turns 8 years old a handler should consider adding a pup to their family.
A dog mobile...that can start as the family car. Most times a new handler gets a pup and a few items are placed in the trunk and the dog sits on a towel on the front seat. Then summer hits and when you are done training this excited search monster jumps into your tuck, misses the seat with the towel and plants his face in front of the coldest A/C vent. Dog slobber is then blown all over your truck, the dog shakes and spit and dust goes everywhere and once home you find the remnants of wet stuffed toy ducks all over the back seat. You are issued additional equipment and the next thing you know there is barely room for you and your dog to fit inside your vehicle. The next change you notice in this building of a dedicated dog vehicle is no one else wants to ride in your truck anymore. Hair is everywhere even 30 minutes after you run a shop vac and on rig day you will find things under the seats that make you smile...ripped up dog toys, pieces of what you hope is dog biscuits, and probably a collar you have not seen in months.