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!