Indiana Department of Homeland Security Trains Rescue Dogs

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By Sgt. Brad Staggs, Muscatatuck Urban Training Center Public Affairs NCO

BUTLERVILLE, Ind. – Lisa Harper was hoping that her hidden compartment in the closet of the house would be enough to fool Bessie, the bloodhound that was tracking her. She had even been carried into the house so that her scent would not be found easily outside.

Handler Talerie Brown gave Bessie enough leash to freely roam wherever she picked up the scent, eventually leading her to the door and ultimately to the hidden compartment in the closet. Harper was found and Bessie had passed her test.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with law enforcement from Louisiana and Michigan, conducted search and rescue dog training at Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind., April 29 through May 2. Lillian Hardy, the department’s event coordinator, said the training was for dogs of all levels from puppy to older dogs.

Handler Talerie Brown follows her two year old bloodhound, Bessie, into a house at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center as Master Trainer Deputy Sheriff Mark Matranga of Assumption Parrish, La., watches closely.
Handler Talerie Brown follows her two yearold bloodhound, Bessie, into a house at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center as Master Trainer Deputy Sheriff Mark Matranga of Assumption Parrish, La., watches closely. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security conducted a search and cadaver dog training session using some of the buildings at MUTC as training sites. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brad Staggs.

“[The training starts with] beginning work to make sure the dogs know how to follow a track,” Hardy said. “Then we start progressing them throughout the week so that [the handlers] get better and stronger with their dogs.”

Hardy said that four days was not enough time to complete training with most of the dogs, but it was a good start to fixing most of the problems between handler and animal. At the end of the week, dogs that the master trainers felt were ready to be certified would be.

Handler Janet Anagnos leads her dog, Bullitt, through the cadaver search training site at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind.
Handler Janet Anagnos leads her dog, Bullitt, through the cadaver search training site at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security conducted a search and cadaver dog training session using some of the buildings at MUTC as training sites. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brad Staggs.

The event drew over 30 dogs from as far away as New Jersey and as varied as a Norwegian Elkhound named Tuck, a barely five month-old bloodhound named Aid’n, and a two year-old beagle named Sam.

Some dogs weren’t just search dogs in training, but labors of love for the handlers and owners.

“We started out re-homing pet dogs that had been displaced,” Brown says of her organization, Companion Animal Partners, out of Dayton, Ohio, where she is the head dog trainer and kennel master. “We now have a new venue that’s a spin-off recognizing that there are work dogs that are at shelters or in people’s homes that are going to be displaced or euthanized because they can’t handle them.”

Sam, a two year old Beagle, stands on his hind legs in order to get a better look and smell of a piece of furniture as handler Tim Hartsock gives him enough lead to do his job at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security conducted a search and cadaver dog training session using some of the buildings at MUTC as training sites.
Sam, a two yearold Beagle, stands on his hind-legs in order to get a better look and smell of a piece of furniture as handler Tim Hartsock gives him enough lead to do his job at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security conducted a search and cadaver dog training session using some of the buildings at MUTC as training sites. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brad Staggs.

Bessie, a two year-old bloodhound, was less than two hours from being euthanized after being found in Dayton, abandoned and emaciated. Companion Animal Partners rescued Bessie, brought her back to health and is now training her to be a search and rescue dog.

Mark Matranga, a Deputy Sheriff from Assumption Parrish, La., is a master trainer and was happy with the dogs being brought to the training session.

“All the dogs are doing well,” Matranga said. “We have a lot of young dogs and new handlers and they are all doing fairly well for the amount of training that they have. We have two or three advanced dogs that are really doing well.”

Sam, a two year old Beagle, signals to his handler, Tim Hartsock of Fishers, Ind., that they need to look inside a house at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security conducted a search and cadaver dog training session using some of the buildings at MUTC as training sites.
Sam, a two yearold Beagle, signals to his handler, Tim Hartsock of Fishers, Ind., that they need to look inside a house at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security conducted a search and cadaver dog training session using some of the buildings at MUTC as training sites. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brad Staggs.

The trainers weren’t just at the event to watch, they were there to help handlers learn how to work their dogs for the best results. After handler Tim Hartsock of Fishers ran his beagle, Sam, from Mid-America Search through the training, master trainer Laura Totis made sure to leave him with pointers on what to watch for.

“You need to listen for the changes in the dog’s breathing patterns,” Totis instructed an intently-listening Hartsock. “Once you learn the dog’s body language, that’s most of the battle.”

Some handlers know their dogs so well that they can tell when the dog is signaling them that they have found something, even if that signal isn’t exactly what they were taught to do. Handler Janet Anagnos has taught her four year-old Sheppard, Bullitt, to sit at the spot that he gets a “hit” or smells something that is out of the normal when doing cadaver searches. But today, Bullitt doesn’t sit, he simply stands still at a spot. Anagnos says that the spot is where Bullitt has found something, and she’s right.

Hardy hopes to continue using Camp Atterbury and MUTC because of the facilities that are ready-made for the kind of training they need to do.

Kelsey, a three year old Golden Retriever, finds Lisa Harper in her hiding place at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security conducted a search and cadaver dog training session using some of the buildings at MUTC as training sites.
Kelsey, a three yearold Golden Retriever, finds Lisa Harper in her hiding place at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Ind. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security conducted a search and cadaver dog training session using some of the buildings at MUTC as training sites. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brad Staggs.

“The buildings are nice, especially since they’re not just empty buildings, they’ve got things in them so it makes it much more realistic,” Hardy said. “We do building searches out here in the fall, but we want more time, so we’ll definitely be back.”

By Sgt. Brad Staggs, Muscatatuck Urban Training Center Public Affairs NCO

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