Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Show: The Desolation of Charlie

Our little ski/snowshoe party split up. Goldbrickers Perfesser Chaos and Aunt Barb continued skiing on the trail; Raindog Sophia and Charlie's big sister/niece (it's complicated) Annabelle stayed with them.

Charlie and I, the ones who were actually working, struck off into the woods, off-trail, scouting for places to hide Saturday's search subjects.

It wasn't hard to keep track of the others as they skiied the loop. Sophia sang The Song of Her People as she went; this is reliably piercing at up to 1 km away. The little Chuckster was quite content exploring the deer beds and squirrel hides while I snowshoed briskly along and marked the hidey-spots.

But then we came out onto the trail, and Little Miss Imma Be A Trailing Dog Like My Mommy dropped her nose and announced to me that Daddy passed by here and also that she intended to trail him until she caught him.

And this is what happened when I told her she wasn't allowed to.

Monday, February 10, 2014

It's not winter in Harmony until ...

… someone big slides off the driveway into the south pasture.

Our old oil supplier is no longer providing this service, so I warned the new guy that the driveway, though plowed, can be tricky for larger rigs. He figured that since the old driver could manage it, he would too.

As he left, I went into the house to secure the beasties. I looked out the window a minute or so later, and didn't see the truck. Gee, he got out already, good deal.

Went back to work inside.

An hour later the dogs start going apeshit. Because the tow truck had arrived. The special pull out an oil truck with 1500 gallons of fuel in the tank before it tips over in my pasture tow truck.

Poor guy had been starting his second attempt up the hill when I looked out, just as he was blocked from view by the barn.

The tow vehicle had to be secured first. That's where the lone hemlock comes in.

The cherry tree at the curve can never come down; it provides the anchor for the redirect. This is all the same as our mountain rescue rigging, except winch instead of manpower for hauling, no real use of mechanical advantage systems, and if the steel cable snaps, it doesn't just drop its load, it whips around and removes the heads of every person in range. Also, the tow operator had a lot more faith in the power of gravity for progress capture than I did. I figure gravity is what got him in that spot in the first place.

Good times.

If a vehicle is pickup-sized or smaller, I can generally get it out with our manual come-alongs and tow straps.

This was the second oil truck the pasture has bagged in five winters, and here's the thing -- it always takes at least two tow trucks, with winches and anchoring to trees, to get one large truck out.

It's all about the angles, man.

Everyone stayed cheerful about it. No gateposts harmed in this production.

The boss needs to buy some chains for the truck.

Monday, February 3, 2014

You Should Be So Lucky, Redux

The next generation of AMRG canine searchers shows how it is done.

If you are lucky enough to be conscious when the search team finds you, this may be what you see just before life gets a whole lot better.


This video shows some of what I look for in an operational SAR dog: a robust understanding of the goals of his work, and an assertive commitment to communicating with his handler. With real understanding -- cognitive mastery -- comes flexibility and robustness. An animal that is simply conditioned to perform a sequence through a stylized stimulus-response chain won't have either.

It takes years of training to develop a dog and handler into partners working towards a shared and mutually-understood goal.

When Nico first came to us, his handler Jennifer had plucked him from a looming death sentence at a local shelter.

Seems he was, you know, dangerous.


What he was, in addition to "a young male working dog locked in a box in a kennel of yapping idiots," was an ignoramus.

A year or so old, of obviously good working breeding, and no one had taught him anything.

He liked to bite rocks.

That pretty much covers his hobbies and interests at that point.

He had no idea how to greet another dog. His approach to Pip -- in her teens, judgey by nature, and, unknown to us, beginning to feel the effects of the cancer that would kill her in a few months -- was to rush straight at her and mouth her on the top of the neck.

And Pip, never a forgiving sort, said "He's just ignorant. He'll learn."

So we said yes to Jennifer, and Jennifer said yes to Nico, and Nico said yes to a mission in life, which is what all the rudeness and rock-obsessing had been about.

But it took about two years of constant training to get there. No fairy tale "ending" because we are never done. The reward for getting there is the continued hard work it takes to stay there.

Once again, you should be so lucky.