The sound of panting and the smell of dog breath filled the Kootenai County Search and Rescue building in Hayden on Sunday afternoon as a group of people and their pups learned the ins and outs of search and rescue.
In collaboration with two instructors from Ravalli County Search and Rescue in Hamilton, Montana, about 16 volunteers took lessons on first aid, restraining techniques and where to locate a dog’s pulse. Their canine companions, meanwhile, were schooled in an activity more suited to their acute sense of smell – tracking.
Before long, many of the dogs will receive certification to become official search and rescue animals.
“We enjoy doing this,” said JoMay Wyatt-Pescador, one of the trainers from Ravalli County. “And we like working with other dog people.”
In attendance were volunteers from across the region who have already proved themselves willing to help with local search and rescue operations. One of these was Karen Kelly, who, with the help of her 3-year-old golden retriever Bliss, located 39-year-old Jay Deming on March 9.
Deming and his 11-month-old dog Nibbs had gone missing in the Lost Creek area of Shoshone County in Idaho days before. Kelly and fellow rescuer Mark Stambaugh, of Post Falls, found Deming alive with his dog in a state of severe hypothermia, she said.
“We happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Kelly said.
Though it was Kelly who made the find, she gives most of the credit to the other rescuers, who spent more than 30 hours out in the snow searching, and to Stambaugh – but admits Bliss also played a crucial role.
“He had his dog with him,” she said. “And (Nibbs) just wanted to play with Bliss.”
Kelly, who was a news anchor for KXLY 4 News in Spokane for 20 years, said the decision to find and help others who couldn’t help themselves was an easy one.
“I’ve always wanted to do it,” she said. “I always wanted to be on the other side.”
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