Every Dog Matters – Meet Hero #689
Morris Animal Foundation appreciates the commitment made by our study participants, and we want to honor and recognize that commitment. Each month, we’ll share their stories and learn about the families and veterinarians who care for them. This month, meet Bailey, Hero Dog #689.
Rappelling down a building, trekking through dense brush, and slogging through knee deep, ice cold water are all in a day’s work for Deb Seline and her golden retriever, Bailey. Deb and Bailey are a search and rescue team; work filled with joy as well as sorrow.
“As I was growing up, my family had miniature poodles,” said Deb, who belongs to the Civil Air Patrol. “Once I moved away, I wanted to continue to do search and rescue, and thought about getting a dog for that purpose. I wanted a German shepherd, but couldn’t get one where I lived. A breeder donated a golden retriever to me specifically for search and rescue, and I’ve been working with and training golden retrievers ever since.”
Deb has been involved in search and rescue activities since her early teens, and got her first search and rescue dog nearly 20 years ago.
“At 14, I joined the search and rescue team and did it throughout my teenage years,” said Deb. “In 1996, I saw a demo using a search dog; I’d never seen one work before and said ‘Oh my gosh, I have to have one of those!’ I’d been doing search and rescue for 25 years without a dog, and as soon as I could, I got one. Having the dogs has made a big difference in my work.”
Although Deb is still involved with Civil Air Patrol, these days most of her search work is on the ground.
“I have a live-find dog and a cadaver dog,” said Deb. “Bailey is an HRD dog, which stands for human remains detection. That’s her specialty. Bailey’s pup, Spirit, is a live-find dog.”
Like all handlers, Deb had to master search and rescue techniques herself before she could start training her dogs. Starting as young as 12 weeks of age, search and rescue dogs learn how to recognize certain scents and, most importantly, learn how to alert their trainer when they’ve located something or someone.
Deb said that most dogs are trained to stay in place and bark if they’ve found something, although some dogs are taught to return to their handlers or to give a passive indication such as a sit. The training process is long, and often difficult, but ultimately worth it.
Deb has hopes that the Golden Retriever Lifetime study will identify risk factors or predisposing factors to cancer development in golden retrievers. As a breeder, she is concerned about the consequences of a diminishing genetic pool, resulting in decreased diversity and poorer health outcomes. She also hopes that what we learn in the study will have applicability to other animal species and humans.
“I’m proud Bailey is part of the study,” said Deb. “I hope Bailey doesn’t get cancer, but also hope that she provides valuable information no matter what happens to her.”
Thank you, Deb and Bailey, for your commitment to the study. Every participant in the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, human and dog, matters!