The K-9 Unit is one of several specialized resource units of TSAR. The canine resource increases search capabilities beyond the scope of human sensory perception. Canines can discern the scent of one particle in one million. Most humans have approximately 8 million cells inside their nose dedicated to smell. Canines have approximately 120–200 million cells dedicated to smell.
TRAINING REQUIREMENTS: The TSAR K-9 Unit trains one day every week to keep this resource at ready and in peak condition. Even with this dedication, it takes 1.5 to 2 years to fully train a mission-ready canine and canine handler. Besides training with the K9 Unit a minimum of one day each week in the search modality, handlers are required to do additional training in obedience, agility, problem solving, and behavioral shaping.
TYPE OF SEARCH: Our dogs are often cross-trained in more than one canine search modality: air scent (which also may include generic or scent specific and live find or human remains specialties) and track/trailing (which is live find, scent specific specialty only). Canines and canine handlers must undergo a series of evaluations in each modality before reaching mission readiness in that specialty. As wilderness search dogs, proficiency in multiple disciplines can be of significant benefit to the mission at hand and enabling the dog to use whatever discipline required to reach the person in need with the most expediency.
AREA SEARCH: Air scent is generated from air/wind blowing past a person, carrying scent across the landscape for up to several miles, thus enabling the dog to search large areas of terrain. The dog works with his head held high hunting for scent on the wind. This search modality may be conducted through generic search (dog hunts for any human scent in the area) or through scent specific search (dog hunts for a specific scent from a given scent article). Area search is also the modality utilized to find human remains, so HRD (Human Remains Detection) dogs area search dogs.
TRACK/TRAIL SEARCH: This type of search is done when the dog works the ground scent left either by direct footprints or scent deposited near the footprint as the person walks through the terrain. The dog works with the head held close to or on the ground or low plants/bushes/brush. This modality requires a scent article, and so is scent specific, focusing the dog only on the track the subject actually took. Track dogs help establish a direction of travel, which can help narrow the scope of the search containment area to focus vital resources and save time.
K9 UNIT IMAGES
JOIN THE K9 UNIT!
See the Join Us page for more information about joining Taos Search & Rescue. Joining the K9 Unit is a substantial commitment, and it may take 1.5 to 2 years of training until you and your dog are ready to respond to a search mission.
To learn more about working in the K9 Unit, download their unit guidelines below.
K9 UNIT MEMBERS
Delinda VanneBrightyn – K9 Unit Leader, Handler for K9 AkioYodasan (K9-1), Certified K9 Search Specialist Team in Area Search.
Emily Johnson – Handler for K9 Gus (K9-2), In Training
Tamar Stieber – Handler for K9 Lucien (K9-4), In Training
Rob Goldfarb – Handler for K9 Po, Auxiliary Member (K9-3), Certified K9 Search Specialist Team in Area Search.
EVER WITH US
K9 Zatoichi served Taos Search & Rescue until his retirement at 12 years. He was born June 4, 2003 and became Certified with his handler, Delinda VanneBrightyn, in Area Search at 1.5 years of age. He went on to also become certified in Human Remains Detection, Track/Trail and Scent Specific Area Search.
Zatoichi was affectionately and aptly nicknamed by his teammates both as “Einstein” and “Captain Quirk”. He lived to search, and these were his happiest, most gratified moments in life, well, besides the occasional herding of large groups of cows, which he could not resist from driving into a small manageable clump. He also loved to swim and could spend hours in the water no matter the season.
Zatoichi’s favorite toy was a stick, no a downed tree, really….the larger, the better. He was known to pick up entire trees or giant logs that he could barely manage and carry them for long distances. It was always prudent to stay out of his way and have him walk in front of you, not behind.
Besides being a wonderful search dog, Zatoichi also helped his handler and trainer, Delinda, to help dogs in his community. He demonstrated for a multitude of dog classes, from obedience and agility to Canine Good Citizen and behavior modification, Zatoichi was especially adept at assisting with dogs who were scared or aggressive. Although he was large, 103 lbs, and could be intimidating in size, especially to some smaller dogs, he knew just how to set them at ease and Zatoichi was often the first dog that these dogs met and with whom they would begin to form a friendship.
Zatoichi passed away of natural causes in his handler’s arms on February 13, 2015. He served us long and well.
K9 Ruby trained for 2 years and then became certified in Area Search with her handler, Larry McConnell. Ruby served for a brief time with TSAR until her handler was unable to continue with the team.
Ruby was an excellent search dog and loved to do her job. She also loved to eat everything in sight and was once known to have eaten an entire garbage bag. We will withhold the details of its natural extraction, but it gave us a lot to talk and laugh about for a while.
Ruby also loved to swim and was always happy and full of energy and vitality for life and search. Her handler, Larry, is a retired sea fisherman from Alaska and was a great teammate. We miss them both and wish them every happiness.