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On Call 24/7: Search and Rescue Dogs of Australia      
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Search and rescue dogs serve on the frontlines locating people missing after natural disasters, lost children, injured hikers and others, being ready at a moment’s notice to bravely endure the elements and save lives. Supreme Master Ching Hai, world renowned humanitarian, artist and spiritual teacher, speaks of her admiration and concern for these devoted canines.

And I saw many dogs, you know, they used for rescue mission. Oh, they just walk in like nothing, but I feel so bad about them.

The dogs walk in the sharp, broken glasses or anything like that, even chemical leaking or anything, or germs or danger.

And these are precious dogs. They have been trained for years. And they even lay down their life for anyone at command. You have to protect that dog.

To show Her loving support for search dogs and their human partners, Supreme Master Ching Hai has generously contributed over US$80,000 to search-and-rescue teams in 18 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Panama, the Philippines, Slovenia, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA.

Today’s program features one of these courageous teams, Search and Rescue Dogs Australia (SARDA). Based in Mornington Peninsula in the state of Victoria, Australia, SARDA is an all- volunteer, non-profit organization that provides professionally trained search-and-rescue dogs that work together with human partners to locate lost and missing persons. The group’s services are provided free of charge to law enforcement agencies. On call 24-hours a day and 365 days a year, members are always ready to provide assistance. Julie Cowan is president of the dedicated organization.

Search and Rescue Dogs Australia (SARDA) was started about 15 years ago. And we have teams in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. And we just train dogs to save lives.

Depending on their personality and fitness level, team member Andrew Cowan says certain types of dogs will excel in search-and-rescue missions more than others.

Often we have to evaluate the pups in the litter to see, there may only be one or two pups out of that complete litter that’s suitable. Now there are certain tests that we do with the pups, but basically what we want to see is the pup to be very inquisitive and not frightened at all of humans. So these dogs really are very friendly, it doesn’t matter who they are, they’ll run up to them and they just love people.

It’s very difficult, the stats are worldwide that probably one in 400 dogs will actually make it to an operational status, passed all the tests and that.

An enormous amount of time is put into diligent training in various activities, situations and search methods in preparation for missions.

How long did it take you to train your dog?

This is Will, he’s only 18 months old. He’s been training since he was seven weeks old. And he’s about up to his Fundamental Skills Assessment Level, which is all the basic search training, which involves obedience, agility, and general searching area. And then I think probably in about six to eight months he’ll be ready for his basic operational standard where we’ll be able to go on a search.

And how often do you actually train the dogs?

I do something with them every day, something small, it’s not necessarily a search but it’s a bonding thing. We officially train every weekend. And then we do go away for camps and do different exercises away on camps. It’s a huge commitment. It takes probably around about 5,000 hours to train an operational search dog. So it’s a lot of hours and a lot of commitment.

With their acute senses and great agility, the dogs are invaluable in conducting timely search-and rescue-missions, and learn to work under varied conditions, such as in wilderness or open country and during urban disasters. In wilderness searches, the canines are asked to locate individuals such as hikers, climbers and vulnerable people such as children and the elderly who have gone missing. In urban searches, the teams are asked to find victims of human-caused or natural disasters.

Our area search dogs are refined dogs where the dogs come back to the handler and let them know that they’ve found someone, then take the handler back to them in an area search. But in rubble, a disaster area, they have to stay with it. The standard for urban search and rescue says the dog must stay with the victim.

A strong relationship between the dog and their human partner is essential to build a successful search-and-rescue team.

We like to what we call “imprint” the pups, so virtually as soon as the pups are born, we’ll take over an article of clothing that we’ve worn, and that’ll go in the litter with all the pups and then the pups would be attuned to our smell.

It’s very important to build the bond between you and the dog. I’ve had him from seven weeks old. He actually sleeps in the bedroom with us, so that they’re constantly with us. He goes to work with us. Anywhere we go, the dog goes. So, you have to expose them to all different environments, different surfaces, steel ladders, just put the dog into as many different situations you can when they’re young and then nothing will faze them when they get older.

When we return, we’ll see one of the more challenging training exercises for the canine members of Search and Rescue Dogs Australia. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants featuring Search and Rescue Dogs Australia (SARDA), a non-profit organization that provides certified search-and-rescue, dog-and-human teams to help law enforcement agencies in various Australian states find lost and missing persons. Currently, the all-volunteer SARDA has 28 members, 20 active dog teams and 8 support members. The people involved come from diverse backgrounds, professions and skill areas, an advantage that greatly contributes to the success of the group’s activities. Let’s now meet another brilliant canine hero and his human caregiver.

This is Kuno.

My husband and I joined together; we’re both really interested in making a difference and SARDA gave us the opportunity to do that with our dog as well, and, yes, ultimately, hopefully, save a life one day.

Kuno has been training since he was about nine weeks old. He’s probably about halfway through, so he’ll probably need another year of training before he will be qualified, I think.

We start with baby steps, usually, break down whatever task we’re trying to get him to achieve into really small bits. And constantly reward him when he makes a little achievement so that you don’t throw the real big daunting task at him all at once.

When we are doing the agility (training), we reward as we go, but when we’re doing searches, he gets his toy when he finds the person he is looking for.

According to their training and experience, search-and-rescue dogs may be versed in air-scenting or trailing-and-tracking or even both. In air-scenting, a dog points her sensitive nose high in the air to locate human scent in open areas.

The dog will eliminate all the other people that are around, but he knows that there’s someone else out there. So you don’t need to give them an article of clothing.

Yes, this is Gus. He’s a male Labrador (Retriever); he’s coming up just nearly eight (years old).

He’s an air–scenting, search-and-rescue dog. So he’ll find trapped victims, live victims under rubble or situations where they’re lost in the bush. In that situation, he’ll locate them, come back to us and give us a bark alert, and then take us back to the victim. They’ve got a fairly incredible nose for what they can do.

Let’s now join Gus for a demonstration of his air-scenting search training!

I am in the tree. And I’ve got a search-and-rescue dog about to rescue me. Come on. See how we go.

Gus!

What you find? Is he there? There’s a good lad. There’s a good lad. Oh, ho, ho, yeah, yeah, hee, hee, easy. Good boy. Oh, ho, ho. Good boy.

Well, I’ve been found. Whew, thank you, thank you.

Compared to other types of searches, finding a person high in a tree is a much more challenging task for a canine.

The scent goes up quite high and then dissipates with the wind, so you saw the dog went beyond the person first and then worked out the scent cone, and the dogs will often circulate around the tree and then make the circle smaller till they actually locate the person.

This morning, because of the weather, the morning sun, it warms up the top of the trees. And because of the cold air around the base of the tree and the hot air rising from the person, it was doing like a chimney effect, but all the foliage from the tree was also trapping the scent in and around the tree itself. So Gus had to basically work his way around and then come in and in and in before he found the person. Plus, we didn’t have a lot of breeze either for the scent to travel. But that’s what they’ll do, we call it the “umbrella effect” when there’s a lot of foliage on the trees.

How does the dog know when he’s going to work?

In an area search, he wears a jacket with the bells on it. The bells are a trigger for him that he is working in an area search. And the jacket, you could put the jacket on the dogs now, our area search dogs, and they would know what they were doing but with the rubble search they just know. We put all our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) on, helmets, gloves, kneepads, they all know that they’re going to be working. But the area search is with the bells; we know where they are in the bush at all times. And in Australia the bush is thick.

During one of Australia’s worst bushfires, or wildfires, which seriously affected the state of Victoria in February 2009, Gus and another dog named River were sent to help locate deceased members of disaster-stricken families. Please join us again tomorrow on Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants to find out more about Gus and River’s gallantry.

For more details on Search and Rescue Dogs Australia, please visit

Courageous viewers, thank you for joining us today on our program. Coming up next is Enlightening Entertainment after Noteworthy News here on Supreme Master Television. May kindness and love grow among all beings.
Search and rescue dogs serve on the frontlines locating people missing after natural disasters, lost children, injured hikers and others, being ready at a moment’s notice to bravely endure the elements and save lives. Supreme Master Ching Hai, world renowned humanitarian, artist and spiritual teacher, speaks of her admiration and concern for these devoted canines.

And I saw many dogs, you know, they used for rescue mission. Oh, they just walk in like nothing, but I feel so bad about them.

The dogs walk in the sharp, broken glasses or anything like that, even chemical leaking or anything, or germs or danger.

And these are precious dogs. They have been trained for years. And they even lay down their life for anyone at command. You have to protect that dog.

To show Her loving support for search dogs and their human partners, Supreme Master Ching Hai has generously contributed over US$80,000 to search-and-rescue teams in 18 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Panama, the Philippines, Slovenia, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA.

Today’s program features the second part of our two-part series on the courageous team members of Search and Rescue Dogs Australia (SARDA).

Based in Mornington Peninsula in the state of Victoria, Australia, the non-profit organization provides professionally trained search-and-rescue dogs that work together with human partners to locate lost and missing persons. The group’s services are provided free of charge to law enforcement agencies. On call 24-hours a day and 365 days a year, members are always ready to provide assistance.

In the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires that scorched the state of Victoria in February 2009, the worst natural catastrophe in Australia’s history, many caring individuals and groups were on the scene to aid the local people in re-establishing their lives. The devoted SARDA team helped discover 18 deceased victims following the wildfires, which bought comfort and finality to the disaster-stricken families.

River is my operation dog, he’s been internationally assessed and accredited the last four years. We used him and Gus In the bushfires that we had here in February of last year. We were deployed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to locate any remains in the houses that were left.

Some places that had already been searched and they couldn’t find them, and the boy here found them. So, it gave closure to the family. All the houses had collapsed, some of them were just ash. So it was a very heart-wrenching area to do.

It’s important for teammates to look out for each other at high risk disaster scenes, such as an area that has been devastated by a blaze.

In that situation, we had to be very mindful of their feet, because there was lots of hot stones still, and their eyes had to be constantly flushed because of all the smoke and ash. So, the wellbeing of the dog is the most important thing, so you’ve got to be careful that you don’t put the dog into a situation where he’s going to hurt himself.

You check their paws, that they’ve got no foreign material in them, glass or splinters or what have you, that can cause problems down the track.

Currently, the all-volunteer SARDA has 28 members, 20 active dog teams and 8 support members. The people involved come from diverse backgrounds, professions and skill areas, an advantage that greatly contributes to the success of the group’s activities. The selfless, life-saving deeds of the Search and Rescue Dogs Australia team have inspired many to join them in their noble missions. We got wiped out in the Black Saturday bushfires up in Kinglake, and the weeks following or the days following when we actually returned to our property, I saw a lot of people walking around with orange jackets on, and I read the back of the jacket, and they said SARDA (S-A-R-D-A). I looked up SARDA on the computer, and up came Search and Rescue Dogs Australia.

And it was obviously Julie (Cowan) and Gus that I’d seen that were searching for victims of the fires. And so I made a phone call to Julie. And at that time I didn’t have a dog, and so the very next day I went out and bought a German Shepherd and you are looking at her!

And she’s just been fantastic. She has been the whole family’s big, fluffy Band-aid, which has been great, and she is a terrific dog, and it has been fantastic and the people here have just been great.

When we return, we’ll meet more of the altruistic canines and humans of Search and Rescue Dogs Australia who work continuously to aid their fellow citizens. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television. Welcome back to Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants featuring Search and Rescue Dogs Australia (SARDA), a non-profit organization that provides certified search-and-rescue, dog-and-human teams to help law enforcement agencies in various Australian states find lost and missing persons. Now let’s meet the elegant canine Kruze and his devoted human companion, a passionate former navy police dog trainer.

This is Kruze. We’ve had him for about 15 months now, and he is a Red Merle Australian Shepherd.

He has been here at Search and Rescue just about all his life, since he was eight weeks old. I’ve got a three year plan for him. So we’re, going to take the three years to get him so he’s strong in body, physically ready to go, and he’s had plenty of training. So he’s got about 15 more, 16 more months to go before we really want to get him out there working.

This was sort of a natural progression for me. And plus I love watching them work, when dogs work naturally, they are amazing, so I really enjoy watching them do what they do naturally.

He enjoys a tug-of-war game, and he’s only a puppy, really, so it’s all just good fun for him.

This is Scout. Scout is about 15 months old; she is a Golden Retriever.

The potential of training a dog that can save lives was very appealing for me, and we haven’t looked back from there, it’s been fantastic.

So how long did it take you to train her?

She is still in training now. It was probably about three to four months before we were on the right track anyway. Up until then it was a lot of, I mean it’s still play fun now, but in the early stages it was really more about confidence building. You’ve seen the dogs over the agility course today, for a very young pup it’s very important just to make it fun for them.

She is very, very soft natured, and a lot of the obstacles she may have fallen off early and took six months to get over that sort of thing. The early days were probably the most, most precious, especially with a dog like Scout. We’re heading down the right track, and probably in the last three to four months, she has really been getting into the search work really well.

And so you give her a treat when she works around the agility track?

Around the agility track, yes. She gets the treat, not so much after each obstacle, we like to keep her focused on each obstacle, but every so often she gets a treat. With the search work, the treat if you like, is the find, they get their toys, and then once they’re back in the work truck, then they get a treat. So, it’s a bit of a process, but it works really well.

Thanks to these benevolent, intelligent canines, search-and-rescue work is much more effective and efficient.

In an area search, if you’ve got one search dog, it’s equal to 40 human searchers. So if you could imagine a line search in a bush area, well you can have a look at the bush behind us. You couldn’t get a lot of people, two, three people at once going through the bush as quick as a dog can drive through that bush, it would be impossible. But one dog can easily and comfortably go through that bush and it’s a quarter of the time for a fully operational search dog who is looking for that person that’s lost and injured.

For all the wonderful rescue work of the SARDA team members, and for their deep commitment to helping society, particularly their unwavering efforts following the Black Saturday bushfires, Supreme Master Ching Hai has contributed US$1000 to help further the group’s noble work and to care for the much deserving canine heroes and heroines.

Along with the donation, Master lovingly provided bags of vegan dog food for the beautiful, hardworking canine team members as well as a lovely selection of her books, DVDs and CDs to share and enjoy!

Thank you very much. For once in my life, I am stuck for words. This has been so generous of Master Ching Hai for actually coming down here and filming our work. We are all volunteers and we’re just out there trying to help; if someone’s lost or trapped, we just want to help them. And training the dogs to do that work is just a joy for us and to see the dogs actually find somebody, and be able to locate is just amazing. So, thank you so much.

On behalf of SARDA, I’d like to thank Master Ching Hai for the generous contribution of the check, and for the books and the DVDs. We are just overwhelmed, because we are all volunteers, and we all use our own money to supply the accredited dogs for the emergency services. And this will go a long way to helping out with everything that we try to do. The dog food especially and the books, and the money, I can’t thank you enough.

In further recognition of their life-saving deeds, Supreme Master Ching Hai is providing an additional US$1,000 to Search and Rescue Dogs Australia for dog shoes and other protective gear. She is also gifting them with extra bags of vegan dog food and delicious vegan cakes and cookies. She has a special message for the group: “I love your dedicated work. This is just a token of thanks. Words are not enough. Heaven bless you & your Hero dogs.”

Our deepest thanks, Search and Rescue Dog Australia for your devotion to serving the people of Australia and rescuing those in need. Your gallantry and steadfastness are an example to us all.

For more details on Search and Rescue Dogs Australia, please visit

Thank you for joining us on Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants. Coming up next is Enlightening Entertainment after Noteworthy News here on Supreme Master Television. May we always have the protection of the Providence.

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