Page 10 - October 16, 2017
P. 10

Local Search and Rescue canine and owner return from Mexico

by Deanna Mitchener
Leonie Brown and her canine partner Kira began
their owner and pet relationship like most
individuals. She was looking for a pet to train, do
tricks with, and have a fur companion to love and
spend time with.
Leonie and her husband soon realized that Kira
was a fast learner and seemed to be seeking extra
attention, and wanted to learn more. "Kira is a
mixed breed, a Lab crossed with something else and
she just turned out to be a very focused dog," said
"When Kira was 1.5 years old I heard about an
introductory seminar to search and rescue. It
sounded like something she might like doing, and
that's where it all started. She is still our pet but a
working dog at the same time," said Leonie.
"Kira really had a knack for the game of search. So
we actually managed to train and get certified earlier
in September to be able to go on international
dispatches. It was only a week after being certified Leonie Brown holding her canine partner Kira while in the middle of search and rescue work in Mexico
that a call came in asking for our help in Mexico City after the big earthquake.
City after the big earthquake hit," said Leonie. agency can phone us through the emergency number "We are just in the process of expanding here in
"We flew out on September 22 not really knowing
what to expect or what we would come across. I was at 1-780-977-9239. We are a volunteer group with a Edson with our Canadian Search and Disaster Dogs
very surprised at how helpful the people in Mexico few dogs who are even certified to do water rescue to train twice a week, so if anyone would like to find
were despite them being in a very difficult situation. searches for drowned persons. We have a boat that out more information and join they can email me at
Everyone seemed to make time to ensure that we we go out with the dogs. We also do wilderness," said Leonie.
were doing okay and had everything we needed to searches locally and internationally," said Leonie.
stay safe. I was very surprised to see such generosity
despite people being in such a stressful situation
themselves," said Leonie.
"I have to say that I am very proud of my dog. She
dealt really well with everything right from flying
out, to meeting all these new people in a new place,
and all the different scents. She was such a great
trooper working hard for 10 days while we were in
Mexico," said Leonie.
"The Canadian Search and Disaster Dog
Association, which I'm a member of, sent down
seven people and six dogs. Six dog handlers and a
nurse traveled to Mexico together. We stayed with
the Mexican K-9 team at their headquarters in
Mexico City," said Leonie.
"The Mexican K-9 team had already been working
for three days before we got there to join in on the
search. The dogs are always together in a team of
three with their handlers. The reason for groups of
three is to send in one dog, then the second dog goes
in to confirm with a notification. If one dog
confirms and another dog is unsure, the third dog is
sent in to confirm the scent," explained Leonie.
"Another reason for three dogs to work together is
due to changes with the wind. The dogs may go in
from different directions and pick up a better scent.
When it comes to concrete rubble there are a lot of
little crevices and cracks that scents can be altered
by. It is always a team effort and we all work
together," said Leonie.
"The dogs are trained to alert on live individuals
rather than deceased. As their handlers, we can tell
by the way they alert if the individual is still alive or
is deceased. Our days were from sunrise to sundown
each day," said Leonie.
Leonie and Kira arrived back in Canada on
October 1. "We had a successful international
mission and I was glad to be able to assist and help.
It changes the idea behind training a dog for search
and disaster when you actually put that training to
good use," said Leonie.
"While training you wonder why certain things are
done such as carrying your dog and handing them
off to others. But while in Mexico I was on a
building that was four stories high that had
collapsed. The dogs can not walk on metal ladders
as there is not enough traction. In order to get the
dogs up to where they needed to be, they needed to
be carried up the ladders. I went up the ladder first
and others would stand on the rubble passing Kira
up to me. It was the same for the way down," said
"The certification we need before we can dispatch
internationally is done by the International Rescue
Organization who are partnered with the UN. There
is a standard for testing the dogs but there are not
enough judges in North America who can do this
testing, so they send in judges from other countries.
During our judging the judge was from the Czech
Republic," said Leonie.
"We also do wilderness searches and can do
local dispatches so anyone in the public, RCMP, Fire
Department, local authorities or a government
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