Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's No Walk in the Park for Search Dogs at Kennywood 20 Highly Trained Canines Practice Rescuing 'Missing Persons'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's No Walk in the Park for Search Dogs at Kennywood 20 Highly Trained Canines Practice Rescuing 'Missing Persons'

Article excerpt

Against a backdrop of roller coasters and other rides and with the day-old scent of french-fried potatoes hovering in the air, 20 highly trained dogs took over Kennywood for five hours Sunday, searching for and rescuing "lost" children and adults.

With noses down to the ground and tails up and wagging, each dog made several training runs through the 40-acre amusement park. Seven search and rescue groups from Pittsburgh and surrounding counties participated.

Teams from Northwest Pennsylvania K-9 Search and Rescue in Erie drove nearly three hours each way to participate in the exercise because the West Mifflin amusement park is an especially good training ground for search and rescue dogs. It's "highly contaminated" with the scent of many people and much food, Kathy Otruba of Penn Hills explained.

Kennywood is open on Fridays and Saturdays in October for Phantom Fright Nights, so the scents of many people and much food were strong during the training session. Dogs have learned to ignore those good smells and home in on the scent of the person they are tracking.

Search and rescue dogs generally train at least once a week to keep their skills sharp. They train all year in all kinds of weather.

Many people think of Labrador retrievers and German shepherd dogs when they think of search and rescue, Ms. Otruba pointed out, and those breeds were at Kennywood.

But other breeds were represented, including bloodhound, black and tan coonhound, blue tick hound, Belgian malinois, pit bull terrier, golden retriever, chinook, standard schnauzer, and the smallest searcher, Ms. Otruba's Wiley, 10, a 30-pound cocker spaniel.

Wiley has been doing search and rescue for eight years, and he has the attributes handlers look for: a keen nose, high energy, and "a good work ethic and high play drive and the ability to get along with people," said Ms. …

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