When I first brought home Ziggy, I quickly realized he wasn’t a “normal” dog. Sure, he did normal dog things, like barking and chewing and playing with toys. But he didn’t want affection or petting, and the only thing he cared about was food. He didn’t bond with people or other dogs, and didn’t want them around unless they were willing to provide the one thing he cared about – food! We’ve never really figured out what makes Ziggy the way he is. With a lot of hard work we’ve taught Ziggy to accept petting and attention, but he still only tolerates it in hopes of getting rewarded with food. It’s made him basically unadoptable as a pet dog, but it also makes him a very motivated dog when it comes to working. Recently I’ve tried to channel that motivation into a new goal – to become a certified Search and Rescue dog!

About five months ago I joined CSARA, a local search and rescue group. I recently earned my SarTech II certification, and now I’ve started to focus on training Ziggy to be a cadaver dog. This is a video of a recent training session:

There are three main types of Search and Rescue dogs. Two of those – Air Scent and Trailing – search for living people. The third type of dog searches for human remains. This is an important part of Search and Rescue since it can assist law enforcement in investigations and provide loved ones with closure. It is also the type that is most appropriate for Ziggy since he is deaf and not that big a fan of living people.

Becoming certified as an HRD (human remains detection) dog is a long process that involves a lot of training. We’ve only started, and have a very long way to go. Ziggy will have to learn to detect sources that are buried or elevated, and he will have to learn to ignore all distractions along the way. Although he may never reach the goal of being certified, we are having fun learning together. Eventually I hope to adopt a dog specifically for Search and Rescue, and the time spent practicing with Ziggy will help me train a future dog. Ziggy doesn’t understand anything about certifications or tests – he just knows that if I give him the sign for Search, it means it is time for a fun game where when he wins, he gets his favorite thing – food!