Sunday, April 14, 2013

Whorin' just as fast as I can ...

Uh oh. Her secret identity is peeking out.

On Friday night the magic worked.

As darkness and the temperature both fell over Butler County, as my AMRG teammates established a command post, searched a house, and started lining up reflex tasks, as the rolling pages started going out to SAR personnel in Western PA promising a raw and chilly night of searching for an 80-pound boy who loves the woods but does not appreciate its dangers and did not want to be found (just yet), The Ebil One solved everybody's problem for us.

I told the Pennsylvania State Police Trooper who walked with me (gamely in his duty shoes and bulky body armor through brambles and over creeks and mud and gaps in fences) that she had scent from the boy but not a trail, as we circled his house and cut for scent-sign in the nearby woods, that she was not committed to a trail yet. There was still plenty of the boy's scent coming from his house and yard. I told him that when she had none of his scent at all, that she would yell at me.

And as we spiraled further to the west, she yelled at me on cue. Profanely. She follows in her mother's pawprints: Make your handler look unaccountably good on deployments, and like a complete ass the rest of the time.

I'll take it. I will effing take it.

Meanwhile, Perfesser Chaos and Cole were searching the boy's house. Cole was performing the invaluable job of eliminating one of the highest probability areas.  Saying no is also magical. It's more important to be accurate than it is to come up with yes.

We cut north, went downhill, and she began to cruise up a trail to the north. I put the line back on her harness. She started hauling.

"I think we have something."

She crossed the road and starting dragging me along its side, heading northeast, nose down, tail flagging. She weighs less than forty pounds. Dragged me.


As we approached an intersection, her head popped up briefly, so high that her front feet left the ground slightly.

"That little head-pop -- did you see it?"


"We are either passing a scent pool where he paused or we are very close."

A minute later we reached an intersection.

"Hang back and be ready to stop traffic. She needs to work out all the options here, and the car traffic for the last three or four hours will have mixed up the picture."

She hauled me diagonally across the intersection, no checking and working out the options. Up over a dirt berm.  Tail-wagging now.  Smug tail-wagging.

In the gloom across a field, at the edge of the woods, something moving.

Someone moving.

"There's somebody over there!"

And that's how it went -- the way it goes in the half-hour teevee version of search and rescue and pretty much never in real life. Ending with a cold but safe child bundled in my down vest and being lectured by a police officer and, a bit later, his parents.

All that was missing was about 100 pounds of dog, ground-dragging ears, unfortunate canine body odor, and Foley artists adding dramatic baying in post-production.

Folks, "bloodhound" is a breed. "Trailing dog" is a job. The two sets overlap less than some people -- primarily those who sell oversized rheumy-eyed bloodhounds who aren't trained to trail and aren't the offspring of parents who are trained to trail -- want you to believe.

(Also, she crossed water without "losing the scent."  Twice, at least. Sorry, Hollywood. She is neither a Nazgul nor a sixth-grader)

So consider the injustice.

Many people are under the impression that search and rescue personnel get some sort of government support. After all, we only work at the behest of the police or another responsible government agency. We are on call 24 hours a day.  (Friday night's callout was date night for me and Perfesser Chaos. Still haven't seen Les Mis.) So the government pays us, right?

Not right.

Oh, but you get your expenses taken care of -- all that money for training at seminars and conferences and classes, the costs of certification, all that personal equipment, tens of thousands of miles a year on vehicles with gas prices in the stratosphere, and for dog handlers, the expense of buying, feeding, and vetting our partners, thousands of dollars every year.

Yeah, sorry, no. That's out of our personal pockets, too.

Volunteer wilderness search and rescue personnel are the biggest bargain in public safety.  Do your cops work for free? Even volunteer fire and ambulance services get grants from the state, and many services offer expense stipends to their volunteers and have some paid staff.

Not us.

Which is why, twelve hours after earning her cape and bracelets, Rosie was reduced to ...

Reduced to ...

I can't even say it. That's my dogter working the kissing booth there.

Lap dance is extra.

It gets worse. The boy shepherds were forced to battle one another for the entertainment of the crowds.

Oh the humanity.

But you, you can spare these hard-working unpaid professional super-heroes from the debasement of further whoring and fighting and begging for the funds it takes to keep a tiny Mountain Rescue unit up and running.

Buy raffle tickets for fabulous prizes. Come to On The Border in Cranberry on Wednesday and spend lavishly. Or just contribute directly to Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group.

Save our canine partners' dignity from the kissing booth and combat arena.


  1. This made me cry. In a good way. doG bless you, PC and your dogs.

  2. I have embarrassed myself in public enough about your prose already, so I will limit myself to say that people like you and Ken make this world a much, much better place to live in. Thank you for what you do, and the example you set.

  3. Tuck sent his sis his allowance to keep her on the straight and narrow.

  4. Love this! Good dog, good trainer, happy ending (this time).

  5. I did not get a chance to pay cash money for a bit of doggy debauchery. The worst part is that if I drove out for business I could deduct 56.5 cents per mile, but if I leave my warm house on a Friday night, to follow my dog around ind the cold, the government (or gubmint) allows me a whopping 14 cents. Your service Friday night was, according to the tax code, worth less than 25% of some kid driving to Office Depot to pick up toner for the office.

  6. Awww, what a good way to start the week.

  7. The second photo fills me with rage. But I love the others.

    1. It is always Daddy issues that drive them to this, you know.

  8. I can lend you Mika if you want to spare your dog the humiliation. She's a slut.

  9. I remember that a year or so ago, you wrote a post along similar lines, saying that Search and Rescue is, by its nature, usually a local affair--and one seriously underfunded. In the past, I've donated to a national search and rescue and, after reading your post, I came to see why that organization practically never rescued anyone in a big disaster (it usually took them 3-4 days just to get there). Arlene Clarke

    Who (for search and rescue) would you recommend people donate to for the Oklahoma disaster?

  10. Appreciating you tremendously. Perhaps envious, even.


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