Story by Rebecca Pierre
Photography by Keith Ketchum
What do an English Springer Spaniel, a Bloodhound, a Spanish Water Dog, a Weimeraner, a Doberman Pinscher and a German Shepherd have in common? Well, yes, they are all dogs. More than that, they are all members of the Canine Team of Brunswick Search and Rescue (BSAR).
Like most dogs, they are quite smart. Unlike most other dogs, they are certified every two years and trained on a weekly basis in such things as Wilderness Air Scent, Human Remains Detection and Trailing. They can even help to find victims of drowning. These dogs and their special abilities are very important to the community — as are the human members of BSAR.
Brunswick Search and Rescue is a volunteer organization, composed of people from many walks of life who have been serving the community for ten years. These volunteers function in the canine unit, the mounted unit, the water crew, the land crew; in short, they are search and rescue professionals. The goals of this organization are to provide trained personnel and resources to assist in searches for lost or missing people and to provide educational programs in order to help prevent these occurrences. These are lofty goals, and the members of BSAR take them seriously.
An indication of their seriousness lies in the rigorous requirements they must meet in order to become members of this organization. No one with a criminal record can become a member. An FBI fingerprint card and a state driver’s license check must be submitted at the time of application. Other requirements include CPR and First Aid certification; full certification through SAR classes and training; drowning recovery certification for boat teams; state certification for canine teams; and compliance with ICS and Homeland Security requirements as well as North Carolina State Emergency Management requirements.
Recommended training includes Wilderness Survival, Fundamentals of Search and Rescue, Helicopter Orientation, Leadership Skills and Advanced Navigation, among others. In addition, it is important for the search and rescue members to maintain their physical stamina and be able to spend eight to 12-hour days for several days in a row in the wilderness navigating with a map and a compass.
Chief Christy Judah explains that these volunteers “cover North Carolina and South Carolinaand they do it from their hearts.” The first week of September, a seven-year-old boy went missing in Bladen County at about 7 pm. After an all-night search, he was located at daybreak about a mile and a half from home with the help of canine Jessie, a Weimeraner. It was the first find for this dog, and the boy, though he missed vital medication while he was lost, is now fine. At this writing, a team from BSAR is searching for a 62-year-old woman who wandered away from an assisted-care facility in Harnett County. Judah says, “The rewards of being involved in search and rescue activities are a sense of satisfaction and of pride.”
Members are also available to present programs about BSAR, such as how to be safe in the woods, what to do if you get lost, what to do if a friend or relative is lost, and safe family outings. They give canine demonstrations and presentations about responsible canine ownership.
Some important tips provided by BSAR include:
If you get lost in the woods STAY PUT. It has been proven that people who are lost end up going in circles, so save your energy and make it easier to be found. If you are going walking in the woods ALWAYS carry water. The weather does not need to be warm for you to become dehydrated. Be sure to let a friend or relative know where you are going and when you expect to return. Make sure your cell phone is charged and carry a whistle. Either in your pocket or backpack, carry a plastic bag large enough for you to use as shelter.
If a friend or relative is lost, CALL 911. Be sure to provide a photo, a description and information as to where the lost person was last seen. Do not touch clothing or personal items belonging to the lost person; in fact, it is a good idea to close the door to that person’s bedroom until provisions can be made for a search dog to get the person’s scent. Stay out of the search area and if you are near the area, be sure to turn off your vehicle engine, again, to prevent interference with the person’s scent.
If you are going boating ALWAYS wear a life jacket. Again, carrying water is important, as is making a friend or relative aware of where you are going and when you expect to return. The bottom line? Use common sense to be safe.
For more information about BSAR, go to their website at www.brunswicksar.org. If you are interested in becoming a member or in scheduling a program, you can call (910) 842-7942 and speak to Chief Christy Judah or Assistant Chief Laurie Babson.