Archive for the Search and Rescue Category

Meet Molniya

Posted in pets, Search and Rescue with tags , , on November 27, 2012 by rattlerjen

A name that means lightning

I think it’s a pretty good fit.

Meet the newest member of our pack. Mini-G or Molniya is a Belgian Malinois that was given up by its owners because she was destroying the house.  That’s a malinois for you. She needed a job.  She also got a big brother in the bargain.

Molniya (pronounced Mol – nee- ya) brings joy to everything she does.

Her favorite thing is to try and lick you to death while furiously wagging her tail in a big circle. She was given up to a wonderful rescue organization called Bully Paws as a puppy because she was just too much for a family with a toddler.

What a goofy puppy

She was soon adopted out to a family that just did not know what they were getting in to! Belgian Mals certainly are not the sort of dog that likes to go for a simple 30 minute walk, a few minutes of ball play, and will sit on the dog bed for the rest of the day.  She will go non-stop for hours!  When she is bored she will reign destruction on anything within reach.

I wonder what I should destroy next?

She was given back to the rescue organization and lived with half a dozen adorable pit bulls in her foster home.  Her foster “Mom” and pitt buddies were beginning to have enough of her shenanigans. The little minx was playing with the bullies to exhaustion and bugging everyone long after they were done playing for the day.

Her foster parents even had to put her crate in a quiet room and put a towel under the door so that she would get some sleep!

ball ball ball ball!

Until she grows out of her puppy brain, She gets lots of kongs and other nice toys in her crate while we are gone. No eating shoes like Grom did little girl!

Here she is getting evaluated as a search dog, playing with Todd.

She is the perfect candidate for a working Search and Rescue dog.  She loves everyone including children, strangers, dogs, and even other animals.  Most of all, she loves playing tug!

I think aaron has taken to her

We are truly lucky to have been introduced to this wonderful girl.  Look for further postings on her progress in search training along with her big brother. Grom.


Search for a Missing Hiker in Augusta

Posted in Search and Rescue with tags on November 19, 2012 by rattlerjen

A large part of our team went out searching for a missing hiker this past week.  Here is Danne, one fantastic German Shepherd on our team and her handler interviewed on the news.

Missing Staunton Man


NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Calendar Cover Duo

Posted in pets, Search and Rescue with tags , on November 6, 2012 by rattlerjen


Grom and I are featured on the cover of this year’s Calendar from Virginia Search and Rescue Dog Association.  Get yours today!  A donation of $10 gets you the gift of the calendar filled with gorgeous photos.

If you live in the Northern Virginia Area, I may be able to deliver yours by hand and save you the two dollar shipping charge.  Just email me at

And yes, it is tax deductible and you are welcome to donate more.  It’s a perfect gift for the holiday’s and for a good cause.

2013 Virginia Search and Rescue Dog Calendar

Posted in dog, Search and Rescue with tags , on November 5, 2012 by rattlerjen

2013 Virginia Search and Rescue Dog Calendar

Grom and Jennifer Rock the Cover

Up the Stairs in an Odd Way

Posted in dog training, howto, pets, Search and Rescue with tags , on October 23, 2012 by rattlerjen

Exercise the muscles your dog rarely uses

Grom has learned to climb the stairs in a very unusual way.  Why has he learned this silly thing?  It is as important to exercise and stretch out your working dog as it is for the human half of the team.  Exercises such as climbing the stairs backwards works out muscles that your dog rarely uses.  This give his body the strength, stability, and flexibility to prevent injury and keep in tip top shape.

Steps to teaching your dog to climb the stairs backwards.

  1. Teach your dog to back up by holding a treat in front of his nose and moving it directly towards his chest so he must back up to follow it.  You may also try walking towards your dog while holding the treat under his nose.
  2. Say the word “Back” as your dog steps backwards, give him the treat.
  3. Repeat this several times. Always waiting until he takes a step back before you say the word “Back.” Practice this over several days with very short 3 minute training sessions
  4. Say the word “Back” and wait. When your dog takes one step back, click, and treat. (If he doesn’t, go back to step 3)
  5. Wait for two steps back, then three, etc before giving a click and treat.
  6. Now do this in front of the stairs. Wait until his back foot goes up on a step before rewarding. Once he puts one foot up on the stair when you say “Back” regularly, wait until he gets both back feet up until you reward him.
  7. Wait for your dog to go farther and farther up the stairs until you click and treat.  Eventually he will do the whole stair case with only one command of “Back.”

Altitude Sickness in Dogs

Posted in dog, pets, Search and Rescue with tags , , on September 25, 2012 by rattlerjen

Grom and went hiking around in the mountains of New Mexico while we were on vacation.  He spent quite a bit of time resting under the shade of trees along the trail.  Could he have had altitude sickness?

What is it?

Maximal oxygen uptake decreases significantly at elevations above 5,000 feet. This is because oxygen is at a lower pressure at higher altitudes.  Your body has to work more to move oxygen throughout your body.  It can take 3 to 6 weeks of living at the higher altitude in order for your body and your dog’s body to adjust.


  • Panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Pale gums
  • Bleeding from the nose and retina (only in extreme cases)
  • Increased pulse
  • Dry cough
  • Swelling of feet and possibly the face
  • Sudden collapse
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lethargy and refusal to move

It appears that the symptoms are the same for dogs as they are for humans and look quite similar to those of dehydration.


Luckily our ascent was very gradual up the mountain and we only climbed about 800 feet up.  Grom was used to being at sea level on the east coast, but he had been at 5,000 feet for nearly two weeks.  Both the dog and I were quite tired from this change.

If you ever do feel that your dog may be suffering from altitude sickness, the vet has a few remedies.  One is a drug known as acetazolamide, may be prescribed by your vet for treatment.  Oxygen may also help treat a dog for altitude sickness.

Final Word

Simply be aware that high altitude sickness does exist for both dogs and humans.  Take extra precautions when traveling with your dog. The best way to prevent altitude sickness in dogs or humans is to ascend slowly.  Be careful if you are quickly taking your dog to a higher altitude, especially on aircraft that does not have pressurized cabins (helicopters and small aircraft.) Take plenty of breaks, move slowly, and drink more water (lower vapor pressure also causes faster moisture loss.)  Don’t overdo it and you and your canine companion will be fine.


Hiking the La Luz Trail

Posted in life with a working dog, pets with tags , , , on September 18, 2012 by rattlerjen

The trail of light climbs 3,000 feet to the top of Sandia Peak

We decided to hike about a third of the trail for the view.  Boy, were there views!

At the bottom of the trail, the peak looked very far away

Looking back down after about an hour of climbing showed endless switchbacks

Aaron remembered to stop and give Grom lots of water.  Good handler!

The jumping cholla (Choy-Yah) cactus were blooming.  Grom learned not to pee on them.

Grom learned that pulling on the leash while hiking makes Jen fall down.

Much better!

We found out it was best for the dog to walk behind us.  It made it much easier for hikers to pass us.

Half way point equals a nice relaxing nap in the shade.

Aaron enjoyed the view of the city from a pine tree.

The view of the top was not bad either.

Group photo!

A tired dog is a cute dog.

The Wild Wild West

Posted in Search and Rescue on August 25, 2012 by rattlerjen

Grom and I are on vacation for a few weeks in the great South West.  Updates will happen, but we are in relaxation mode. Stick around for some wildly off schedule posts.



Pet Sitting Puppy Pals

Posted in dog, life with a working dog with tags , on August 14, 2012 by rattlerjen

Grom and Seamus are “Brothers from another mother”

At least they are if you could ask them.  I have had the opportunity to take care of Seamus the cuddly labrador for the past few weeks while his mom is out on vacation.  He and Grom are the best of friends.  They must do absolutely everything together.  I have to say, they are both pretty darn cute.

They share bones

Swim Time

Nibble Time

And even Nap Time

Seamus the Labrador is halfway through his Search and Rescue Wilderness tests.  Two Search and Rescue Dogs – Two Best friends.

Catching Scent

Posted in dog training, Search and Rescue with tags , , , on August 7, 2012 by rattlerjen

Can you spot when your dog catches scent?

Or are you spending all of your time doing other things?

I spend quite a bit of my time crawling over slippery wet logs, bursting through thick brush, and trying to avoid stepping in treacherous holes.  As a clumbsy girl who had eight head injuries before I was eight years old, this is a challenge. A search and rescue dog handler must be able to multitask a plethora of different activities.

I must:

  • monitor communications over the radio
  • keep track of time and check into base periodically
  • constantly note exactly where I am on a topographical map
  • keep my eyes peeled for clues
  • keep notes
  • watch my team members who are walking with me
  • test the wind
  • analyse weather and land for scent conditions
  • look for the subject
  • watch my footing
  • navigate by sight with my compass and land marks
  • monitor health of my dog and group
  • think of evacuation routes as I go

but, The most important is:

Watching my dog

This list could be expanded with many more things, but I figured you were sick of reading it.

Your dog is the nose of the operation, you are the brains.  If you miss your dog alerting or catching scent, you could walk right past the missing person.  Scent conditions are complicated and can change on a whim.  Your dog could lose scent at any time. It is your job to figure out what the scent might be doing and direct your dog so he may best find  the person.

I have seen my dog catch scent and lose it in less than a minute.  If I did not stop, think, test the wind, and move my dog into a better place to catch the scent again, my subject may not have been found.

Each dog alerts differently (one of the reasons we cannot work each other’s dogs as an operational team unless we go through all the tests with them and certify with them.)  We can only recognize when the dog catches scent through experience and time with that particular dog.

I use my ears and eyes when I am tracking what my dog is doing.  So even when I have my eyes on something else, I have learned to hear when my dog has changed his behavior.

Can you catch the instant that this search dog catches scent as the handler is scrambling over the giant log?


Trust your Dog

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