It was more than just a day at the beach for our canine search and rescue teams (CSTs) on September 10, when they had the opportunity to practice their skill sets in a new environment at our Lifeguard Headquarters in Marina del Rey. Assisted by Baywatch Lifeguard personnel, the teams of Fire Captain Dennis Clark and Rugby, Fire Captain Dennis DiMarzio and Ty, Fire Captain Ron Horetski and Pearl, Fire Captain Andy Olvera and Stetson, and Fire Fighter Gary Durian and Tanker, along with Linda Tacconelli and Joe of the National Search Dog Foundation, performed searches on the docks and moored Lifeguard boats. This new venue allowed the canines to practice working on different surfaces and learning new scents. "The more broadly we can train with our canines, the better prepared we will be on deployments to these types of environments," says Durian.
During the day-long training, lifeguards hid along the docks and in moored boats acting as "victims" for our canines to locate. "Just being around water like that stretched the dogs out a little bit," notes Durian. "When they approached the boats, even though it was only a step between the boats and the dock, the dogs weren't quite sure if that was somewhere they could go. Once they got the okay from us and realized it was okay to search, they were fine. It helps build their trust in us as handlers when they see we will move them into places that are safe." All the canines happened to be labradors, who are known for being good swimmers, so it was no surprise when Tanker plunged in while following a scent. "Tanker jumped in not to play; he caught a scent that was traveling off the docks and he was following it. Normally we don't want them to go into the water after a disaster because of possible contamination, so we put harnesses on them just in case."
After a successful search and rescue training where all lifeguard "victims" were found, the CSTs took a ride on a boat to get the dogs comfortable with water travel as a possible form of transportation in an actual deployment. "We like to get them used to traveling in different vehicles, such as boats and helicopters. The more they're exposed to, the better they do on deployment," says Durian. All CSTs enjoyed the 30-minute trip and no one was sea-sick! The CSTs would like to thank all Lifeguard personnel who helped make this training possible.