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Search & rescue dogs train in Washington for real-life emergencies

Search & rescue dogs train in Washington for real-life emergencies

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Dozens of dogs descend on Washington this week for canine search and rescue training.

More than 20 teams from all over the East Coast worked at several sites, including Warren Field Airport, to simulate real-life situations and teach the dogs how to sniff out human remains.

It's all part of their national certification, but team leaders say the work they're doing now is preparation for emergencies like the West, TX, fertilizer plant explosion and the Boston Marathon bombings.

"In many cases, such as in Boston, they're also looking for human remains," says Jack Thorpe, the assistant chief for the North Carolina Canine Emergency Response Team. "It may be a negative. They may be searching buildings where there are no human remains. But they have to find out. The only way to do that is with these human remains detection dogs."

One of the training scenarios is a charred field that is supposed to simulate a plane crash covered in bone fragments.

"Once they're at the source and they do a behavior that we trained them to do, whether it's a sit or a down or a bark, then they're rewarded with their favorite toy or a tug," says Denise Conrad, who's been volunteering for the Sarasota, FL, search and rescue team for 12 years.

Thorpe says a game of tug-of-war is a light-hearted moment in what is otherwise a very serious job.

"You have families out there that are looking for their loved ones," he says. "If we have a 5-year-old or a 6-year-old kid that goes missing, we also have lifeline dogs in search and rescue. The immediate response, that quick response with a well-trained dog may very well save a child's life."


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