Carole Capper has taken on many challenging operations during her six years of volunteering with Kamloops Search and Rescue, but perhaps the most rewarding was training her own canine companion to become a work partner.
After passing the wilderness search validation testing conducted by RCMP Police Dog Services, three-year-old Ada became the third addition to the rescue organization's expanding search dog team.
Last week, her female German shepherd and Bernese mountain cross joined 20 other dogs in a boot camp organized by the B.C. Search Dog Association in Merritt, B.C., after which the animals were tested on their scenting and night searching skills.
A validated search dog can be equivalent to 20 to 30 human searchers and eliminate areas that need to be searched in a rescue operation, she says.
Dog training helps to find personal strengths
Capper has trained Ada since she was seven weeks old. Like other search dog handlers, it has taken thousands of hours and thousands of dollars from her own pocket.
But Capper says it's worth all the effort and money — the canine training helps her find her own strengths.
"I'm stronger than I think," Capper said. "I am a good listener and I definitely learn [from] my mistakes."
Capper would watch videos taken during her daily training with Ada, which include obedience walks and searches in the bush.
"It could just be 500 metres into the bush. There may be a shirt hidden there and she has to find it," Capper said.
The rescue volunteer said Ada doesn't have any agility issues, despite her big body size, but impulse control has played a critical role in the training.
"She's a big personality. She's loud. She's very loud, and she's pushy as well."
Kamloops Search and Rescue is a volunteer-run organization working 24/7 to provide assistance to government agencies such as the RCMP, the B.C. Ambulance Service and the BC Coroners Service during natural disasters.