By: Joanne Ewen, JD, EMT, DOT-I
Imagine having a puppy with so much energy and drive that she never stops. Leave her alone and she will chew up anything in sight, including walls! Would you deliberately choose that dog because of her extreme play drive and noisy barking? Well that’s Rebel, a rambunctious, energetic, and talented Labrador retriever from much-awarded hunting dog breeding lines, and a valued member of the Northstar SAR team.
Her owner, Katelyn Croteau, has been working with dogs since she was young, and her dedication and skill in choosing and training Rebel shows. Rebel is one of the youngest dogs to ever certify with IPWDA (International Police Working Dogs Association), NASAR (National Association for Search and Rescue), and Disaster Canine Certification II with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). She was 8 months old when she certified, and typically it takes 1-2 years to train a search dog. Way to go, Katelyn and Rebel - they’re an awesome team! Katelyn is certified as a SAR Technician II and also certified for High Angle Rope Rescue and Ice Rescue. Certification is required for both the handler and the canine, so it’s double the work for the handler.
Rebel is an air scent, or area search, dog, which means she uses the wind to find people. She can work in any type of terrain: urban, wilderness, and even disaster piles of various types. Rebel works off leash so she must have excellent obedience skills as well as search skills. She ranges about 50 to 80 yards away from Katelyn and rapidly covers the ground that it would take 30 trained volunteers to search.
Rebel is trained to FEMA standards for canine search; one aspect of that standard is that she ‘indicates’ she has found someone by doing a ‘bark and hold.’ She sits by the victim and barks until Katelyn gets to her. Rebel is trained to search up to 320 acres, which is a very high standard since most certifications for area search are 160 acres. Katelyn takes Rebel all over the country to train with SAR and FEMA handlers.
If you want to learn more about SAR (search and rescue) and about Northstar SAR, please see our website at www.NorthstarSAR.com. We are a non-profit, and all members are volunteers with their own dogs.