What I Learned from My Operational Evaluation

I passed!

Holy Cow! I am now an Operational Dog Handler after passing my search and rescue Operational 160 Acre Evaluation.

This is the 4-6 hour final test mock search to see if my dog and I have what it takes.

Rather than write a novella on all the things that happened.  (I don’t want to give away all the mysteries to those handlers not yet operational) I will give you a short synapsis and then a list of all the things I learned.

Search Senario

A small plane crashes in a forest with four passengers.  The pilot is found dead on the scene, but the three other passengers are missing. Evidence shows they walked away from the crash site.

Here’s What Happened.

  • Watched Grom the search dog jump into a stream and find it was too deep to his liking. Then, try to exit via a steep bank unsuccessfully.
  • Successfully found the “trail” that no longer exists and walked down it
  • Watched my dog stick his nose against the wind on several occasions rather than alerting into the wind. (To follow him or no?)
  • Cursed the 10mph wind for changing directions several times.
  • Powdered dog in the face while doping the wind
  • Successfully covered all the blank areas of the 160 acres first.  Then watch the clock tick down without a find.
  • Ran into several muggles enjoying the forest in the middle of my sector
  • Watched Grom indicate on a muggle speed walking a hiking trail and try to chase after him while keeping me in sight.  “Why do you keep running away?” – Grom
  • Walked too darn fast
  • Followed Grom into the woods in a large circle because he kept following the scent of someone out there instead of going directly to a point I intended first.  (Trust your dog, don’t just follow him around.)
  • Watch Grom ask one of my found subjects “Annie Annie, are you ok?” repeatedly at the top of his voice.
  • Practically walked over a subject while trying not to break my ankle on fallen logs. (Hey Jen, Walk slower!)
  • Watch the forest try to kill one of my evaluators
  • Wake up my last subject from a very nice long nap.
  • Catch up with a favorite former dog handler of the team.

Thanks to everyone involved in Testapalooza!

And a special congratulations to Chris and Daisy for also passing their Operational on the same day!

Here is what I have learned

  1. When something goes wrong, and it will, pick yourself back up and keep on going.
  2. Be confident in your skills.
  3. This is a learning opportunity.
  4. Your dog will mess up and that’s ok.
  5. Watch your pace.  It is not a stroll, but it is also not a double time death march.
  6. Take breaks. They are essential for your body and your brain and your dog.
  7. You and your dog are a team, be clue aware and set yourself and your dog up for success.
  8. In the real world, letting your dog trample the injured lost person in anticipation for play is probably a bad idea.
  9. Try not to kill your evaluator.
  10. Don’t treat it like a test, treat it like the real thing.
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2 Responses to “What I Learned from My Operational Evaluation”

  1. CONGRATULATIONS! Well earned after much hard work.

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