Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Student trains search and rescue dog

Student trains search and rescue dog | Jacobson“Please don’t pet my dog” read the printouts taped all over the Baker Fergeson Fitness Center.

Sadie, the dog in question, wont’t bite anyone’s hand off, rather you might want to be extra nice to her because some day, she might just save your life.

The seven month-old bloodhound and her owner sophomore Chris Barton are training as search and rescue volunteers.

“Tonight I was officially inducted into the [search and rescue] group for the county,” said Barton who had just returned from a Walla Walla County Search and Rescue meeting.

After a little more paperwork (Barton’s responsibility) and a couple extra field scent-tracking tests (Sadie’s job) both dog and college student will, according to Barton, be official search and rescue volunteers for the state.

While Barton has always had dogs at home and loved the backcountry, his desire to do search and rescue stems from something more.

“February of my senior year my best friend passed away in an avalanche and that was the thing that jumpstarted me into wanting to do search and rescue and help out with that kind of stuff,” said Barton.

“For the most part this is what I want to do. I want to work as a park ranger or a full time rescuer… I never want to wear a suit or have to work in a cubicle,” said Barton.

This past summer, Barton went out and bought Sadie. Over the summer, Barton and Sadie put in over 250 hours of work.   They read books and watched instructional movies, but mostly they hiked around and smelled stuff.

“From the camp [the dogs] catch the scent then follow their path,” said Barton.   To simulate the tracking of a lost victim, Barton would send someone on a loop through the woods then send Sadie, on a long leash and harness after the scent.

“Right now she is able to do a trail that is over 24 hours old and approx two and a half to three miles long,” said Barton.

With some 230 million olfactory cells, 40 times as many as humans, bloodhounds are coveted by search and rescue, police and detectives for their incredible tracking abilities.   Bloodhounds have been known to follow a scent trail for over 130 miles.

“Bloodhounds are extremely stubborn dogs. For the most part when they get a job they’re going to do it till they die, for better or worse.   It can make her hard to train, but her motivation is fine,” said Barton.

Aside from the money Barton has poured into her, he has also devoted countless hours to Sadie’s training.   It all adds up: four or five miles of walking each day, plane tickets between Massachusetts and Walla Walla (although hopefully Sadie will be officially certified in time for winter break so she can fly back for free in Barton’s seat) and hours of training in the woods and crowded places like the gym.

“Hopefully someday she’ll find some people and make it all worthwhile,” said Barton.

“Those seven hours when my friend was missing, not knowing if he was dead or alive: that’s the worst feeling,” said Barton.   “Just giving closure to a family, being able to help out someone who’s lost…it’s more reimbursement than I could ever ask for.”

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    LuLu and LoLLyNov 21, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    We are 2 Maltese dogs and we have to say Two Paws Up! for Sadie and her awesome human, Barton. This is an outstanding story about the best in human nature and dog nature and we, well give you Two Paws Up! again. Love, Your PaLs, LuLu and LoLLy! http://www.luluandlolly.com