Cadaver Camp

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When life shows you a door sometimes you go through it, prepared or not.  When Lisa sent me information about the Canine Search and Rescue camp, I knew I was going.  Nevermind I knew absolutely no one who was going.  Nevermind that Wixer has absolutely no experience doing any of this. I pretty much immediately sent in my application for beginning air scenting.  And of course as soon as Dave learned that one of the class options involved human remains detection he started calling it Cadaver Camp.


I loved almost every minute of it.  And it turns out I did know one person who was there!  She wasn’t in air scenting, but we crossed paths and hope to get together now that we’re home to talk about our experiences.  The people were welcoming and my instructor, Janet, was outstanding.  I cannot say enough good things about this experience.  I got a little nervous when I got there and discovered the beginning and intermediate air scenting were combined into one group.  Was I going to be completely lost?  Would I be holding the whole class back?  Nope, and nope!   Janet fluidly and seamlessly made sure all the dogs worked at their own level with both success and just enough challenge to show us where we need to work as we headed home.

This year’s camp was hosted by the Illinois Wisconsin Search and Rescue Dogs and was held at the Wisconsin Lion’s Camp.  It was an amazing facility and the host group did superlative job on what was clearly a whole lot of work to make it run smoothly.  I chose to stay in one of the group cabins on the camp grounds, but some people opted to bring their RV or stay in a local motel.  These cabins were pretty luxurious for cabins and I was happy with my choice.

As I was leaving Angie told me to watch out for bears, and while I didn’t find any bears I did find lots of lions at the Lion’s Camp! There were mascot lions:
CSAR camp: Riding the lion.

Drinking fountain lions, and water fountain lions:
CSAR camp: Thirsty enough to stock your head in a,lion.CSAR camp: Moar lions!

We also found one very serious lion:
CSAR camp: Srs lions

The class I picked was beginning air scent which is used in finding people who are lost. We concentrated on the wilderness aspect, tromping around the wonderful fields and forests at the camp.
CSAR camp: Day 1 location

It was so pleasant to be in that place.  Even when it wasn’t my turn just walking around watching the dog and handler who were working was a pleasure.  I’m not sure when I’ve been that content in recent memory.

CSAR camp: Training location

Even being the subject and waiting for the dog to find you was nice. Mind you, it was sprinkling here but my rain gear was plenty and the rain didn’t make it much under the canopy anyway:

CSAR camp: hanging out waiting to be found by Nikki.

Depending on your geographic area, air scenting can more often be someone with dementia rather than a lost hiker which can add some complications if they don’t wish to be found or don’t understand what is happening.  But the idea is that your dog can sniff them out and then let you know where to find them. Wixer, being a complete novice, started with run-aways ensuring that he would start to pair being in the scent of the person running away. And then hopefully start to find the pattern of when he ran past that odor path and needed to pay attention to sourcing the odor, rather than just running around willy nilly.  Wixer was pretty sure this was a fine idea, run after someone with a tug?  That is relevant to his interests.

CSAR camp: Wixer liked the running and the tugging.CSAR camp: Wixer liked the running and the tugging.

We did get to move on to C patterns a little later in the week and Janet ran us through one small problem.  He totally isn’t ready for actual problems yet, but she wanted me to see how to set it up when he does get there.  Very helpful.

I think he liked it:

CSAR camp: Happy camper

The camp had a cafeteria which provided us with a really tasty hot breakfast and dinner every day and we took coolers with sandwich fixins with us to the field.  Granted doing all this walking and activity meant the meals were flavored with hunger, but it was really satisfying food.  Plus I didn’t have to make it or clean up after it.

We generally worked from a little after 8 until 5 every day and there was a guest speaker most evening (bonus learning).  But despite that full schedule, there was plenty of time to explore the ginormous (440 acre) camp!

We tried our paw at some archery:
CSAR camp: Black archer needs patience badly.

The climbing wall was pretty intimidating, but he totally wanted to challenge someone to some hoops:
CSAR camp: I'm NOT climbing this.CSAR camp: trying his paw at basketball

We also discovered some really neat places like this tiny lighthouse:
CSAR camp: Random adorable lighthouse.

And this land of tiny mushrooms, which Wixer claimed and immediately become ruler of.

CSAR camp: I shall rule teensy mushroom kingdom!

This view from the lake where we sat for a while and thought deep thoughts:
CSAR camp: deep thoughts.

Even our training locations offered run places to force Wixer to get his picture taken in/on/near. This pile o’ wood screamed to have a picture…yes Wixer I know the other people in the group are laughing at (with) me.  I’m still taking your picture.
CSAR camp: The others are making fun of your pictures you know.

By the last day Wixer was about done with my shenanigans. I tried to get him to put his feet on the stump with the squirrel on it, but he was having none of it and laid down.
CSAR camp: even the donkey is making fun of you nowCSAR camp: so over the pictures I won't even sit up.

The host group had a map you could add a pushpin to so we could see where everyone was from, there were teams from Alaska, Delaware, and Texas!
CSAR camp: Participant locations.

What a rewarding experience.  I hope to find a way to continue working on these skills.  It will be a bit of a challenge without a team to train with, but I’m going to try!


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This past weekend I attended Barn Hunt Nationals at Purina Farms.  Wixer and I didn’t do as well as I had hoped we would.  Then the evening after we finished he threw up in the car, refused dinner (which I think might be the first time he’s even not eaten a meal), and was generally being very calm and freaking me out.  Not sure if it was because of the severe thunder storms two nights in a row, or the impromptu dock diving we got to after we were done with barn hunt, or something totally different.  He seems to be improved now, eating and acting normally again, so I guess I’ll never know.

Wixer did find love in the air at Barn Hunt.  I’ve never seen him immediately take to a dog.  Ever.  Even when he tries to make friends he does it in the most awkward way that usually sends other dogs packing.  Not so lovely Maggie!  We went walking one day and he immediately ran over and awkwardly bonked her on her shoulder with his nose.  She turned back surprised, seemed to shrug, and kept walking.  By the next day it was this.  They kept walking super close to each other, then would go sniff interesting things, then back into each other.  It was adorable and amazing.  I have no idea what is different about Maggie, but I automatically love her.

Today I have the day to myself before attending an agility trial and running 3 16″ dogs (I will not freak out, I will not freak out, I will not freak out).  So I decided to try to find a nice place to walk with Wixer.  I found a couple and ended up deciding to try two.  First up was Laumeier Sculpture Park to be followed by Castlewood State Park.  Turns out Laumeier was so cool and extensive that I ended up just walking around it for a couple hours taking fun pictures and generally enjoying the bejabbers out of it.  Lovely weather, cool weird art, what could be better?


I should have known it was going to be awesome when I saw this giant eyeball.
Sculpture Garden


All of the art had placards and all kinds of amazing descriptions. Some of them made sense, others…well this one reminded me of an owl. Owls are cool.

Sculpture Garden


There is a real walnut tree trunk underneath all that aluminum.  I’m sure it has deep meaning about humans and nature.  It is also shiny.

Sculpture Garden


A combo sculpture dealing with both a balloon animal poodle and the bonds between carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in sucrose.  Like ya do.

Sculpture Garden


This one was tucked away on a trail and deals with the decline of the Chahokia people. Even though it wasn’t designed for it specifically I felt it was very powerful with the recent issues facing native peoples.

Sculpture Garden


The artist here took an old abandoned pool and created her art around and with it.  My first thought was that is one enormous pool which I bet looked amazing when it was functional.  New dream home goals.

Sculpture Garden


Along with serious art thoughts I also thought, this one has Marvin Martian written all over it.

Sculpture Garden


Made from a California redwood and created with a chainsaw, this made Wixer seem itty bitty.  He such a tolerant dog…and was paid handsomely in treats.

Sculpture garden


This eye catching one was called Ball? Ball! Wall? Wall!  It was made of reclaimed ocean buoys and took me back to those plastic pearl balls that snapped together.

Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden


There were also these cool playground springers on which Wixer got to show off his mad balance skills.

Sculpture GardenSculpture Garden


Cromlech Glen was probably my favorite.  It was peaceful and quiet with dappled sunlight, all around just a lovely little area to walk up and around.

Sculpture Garden


Yet another cool part of this park was a trail with a bunch of sculptures at least tangentially related to dogs!  This one was about smells, supposedly a sort of olfactory compost heap the grounds people keep for dogs to sniff.  Wixer showed absolutely no interest.

Sculpture Garden


And this little doghouse town complete with McMansion and a high rise.

Sculpture Garden


Wixer hanging out in the high rise.

Sculpture Garden


I really enjoyed this whole experience and I’m sure I didn’t get to see everything. I might need to make time to go back the next time I’m in St. Louis.

Its all about that Bleys.

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Today the Fluffy Badger turns 13.  Words are inadequate to express how much I adore this little dude.  He exemplifies resilience, both physical and mental, and I think he has done an amazing job of leading by example that non-typical breeds can kick some serious ass in dog sports.  So today was all about that Bleys.

We started out with some birthday walkies.
Birthday walks

Along which there was forced birthday posing, obvi.
Forced birthday posing

Followed by MORE forced birthday posing.  So tolerant…and expecting treats for their participation in such torture.
More forced birthday posing

Then we moved on to birthday nosework.  Finding lemongrass is awesome…because there are tuna treats about to be bounced off his head.
Birthday nosework

Added in some impromptu birthday fauxgility.  He pwned that tunnel and the one 6″ jump on either end.  I’m talking reverse spins and back sides baby, deaf dog agility FTW.
Birthday fauxgility

What is a birthday without an extreme closeup. Extreeeeeme!
Birthday extreme closeup

Dave also sent me some birthday sketch art of him.  Just look at the majesty!  Consummate V’s all over the place.
birthday phone assisted sketch art

That face clearly deserves a birthday dinner fit for a king…charles spaniel.  Dave made sure he got some of his favorite thing, green tripe.
Birthday dinner

Revenge is a dish best served cow-ld.
Revenge is sweet

And finally some well deserved birthday snuggles.
Birthday snuggles

There may be a little less tri in his color these days, but he’s still looks like a puppy to me and is the absolute cutest dog in my world.