Many people teach their dogs how to sit, stay and roll over, but some take training a step further to help save lives.
Sue Reynolds, the Hart District Career Development coordinator, and her 5-year-old Doberman, Nudel, became certified April 4 as one of 120 dog teams in the state with the California Rescue Dog Association, or CARDA.
Reynolds, who has been training for three years, and Nudel, who has been training for two years, can be called out to anywhere in the state to help law enforcement agencies with locating missing people.
“Nudel is a scent-specific trailing dog, which means that she is trained to accept a scent article from the missing person,” Reynolds said. “If a there is a missing man with Alzheimer’s, for example, the caretaker of the person would have the gentlemen’s slipper.”
Nudel would then use the scent from the slipper to local where the missing man may have gone, she said.
“We all as people drop all sorts of smells. If you think of the Peanuts with Pig-Pen, we’re actually all pretty much like Pig-Pen — dropping pieces of skin and molecules,” Reynolds said. “We’re dropping them all the time whether we’ve had a shower this morning or not and the dogs can very clearly distinguish you from me by these smells.”
Throughout Nudel’s and Reynold’s training, they have learned how to communicate with each other, safely be boarded on and off running helicopters, become emergency first-responder and wilderness first aid trained, how to survive in the wilderness overnight, navigation training with both map, compass and GPS, radio communication, rattlesnake aversion and incident command protocol.
CARDA, which is a 501c3 nonprofit, has several types of search dogs — area search, trailing, cadaver, water, avalanche and disaster, according to the website.
Nudel not only completed her trailing certification, but Reynolds is adding the detection of human remains/cadaver certification, as well, she said. This makes Nudel even more useful as a search dog.
“It could mean the difference of a family ever knowing what happened to their person,” Reynolds said. “It is profoundly important and potentially extremely comforting to provide closure to a family to have known what happened to their person.”
Reynolds has been on missions all across the state and goes for training almost every week, she said.
“As a mission ready team, my phone goes off in the middle of the night and asks me if I can respond,” she said. “We have invested our time, our energy, mud, ticks, rain, cold, hot, had to pass a fitness exam.
“These law enforcement agencies that are utilizing us have to know that we are going to be serviceable, capable and well trained. All of us are working our own dogs. We are a volunteer core of extremely trained, dedicated, dog teams that are available to our communities as a service and we are really gosh good at what we do.”
Reynolds, a Boy Scout mom and has been a board member of several organizations including the Domestic Violence Center of the Santa Clarita Valley, adopted Nudel at just 10 weeks old and wanted to help out more in the community, she said.
“By accident, I learned about CARDA from our local (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department) Mounted Posse here in town,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds then became an apprentice and certified with CARDA within a couple years and Nudel, who is a trackable dog, was more than happy to participate, she said.
“She is excited to have solved the puzzle with me and she’s just so glad that we’re happy,” Reynolds said, as Nudel jumped up and licked her face. “To these dogs, it’s fun. It’s a puzzle that these dogs have learned to solve and they like it.”
Reynolds said that any dog with a nose and willingness to work with its handler is probably a dog that would be great in the program.
“They’re dogs that are delighted to do a job,” she added. “But she is also my pet, she sleeps on my bed every night.”
To learn more about joining CARDA or to donate,visit the website.
“This is not for the faint of heart and last, but not least, you have to be willing to be phoned at 1 a.m., get up, put your uniform on, drive with your dog, go where they want you to go and serve your community.”