Sunday, 14 August 2022
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NELLIE’S JOURNEY: Search unit rescues dog to rescue people

BROOKVILLE — The Pine Creek K9 Search Unit has added a new floppy-eared friend to its hardworking and dedicated team of canine search heroes.

Pine Creek K9 Search Unit is a nonprofit organization covering most of Northwest Central Pennsylvania, assisting in any missing person search. The group’s specially trained search dogs are an essential part of these searches, since they can use scent to narrow down the area and help find the target.

PCK9SU Co-founder Tracy Hidinger recently adopted little Nellie from Appalachian Mountain Man Trailing and Rescue — an all-hounds nonprofit organization with West Virginia and Maryland locations.

Nellie was the result of an accidental litter. The owner did not spay her mother. The owner reached out to AMMAR Hounds for rescue help, which is where Nellie came along.

Nellie is the second Bloodhound rescue to be taken in by the Pine Creek K9 Search Unit. The first, Karma, was rescued in 2015.

“It takes a lot of work and dedication to train and run a search K9,” Dimmick said. “Tracy and Nellie will work and train together daily.”

Dimmick said training will start with getting Nellie excited about playtime and getting her familiarized with treats. Tracy will then graduate to running short distances and hiding around corners, so that Nellie can no longer see her.

After Nellie gets the “FIND” command, she will go to wherever the treats are naturally, and receive a reward when she finds it. They call this the “party” — a celebration for the puppy’s progress.

“You always reward your dog for a job well done with lots of treats and love,” Dimmick said.

After the short trails, the training is moved on to longer trails and more difficult start, middle and end points.

“If you are truly dedicated, it takes about one year to train and certify a dog properly to become a search K9,” Dimmick said.

Each of the dogs is tested yearly by the International Bloodhound Training Institute, and both the dog and the handler must be up-to-date on their certifications to work live searches.

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Dogs don’t have to be a Bloodhound to join the search unit — any canine 18 months or younger is invited to join and start search training.

“The dogs with longer noses and droopy ears seem to do well for holding scent, but we have mixed breed dogs and other full blooded dogs on our team,” Dimmick said.

There are also plenty of opportunities for people who don’t have dogs to volunteer with things like fundraising, mapping, navigation and radio communications.

Nellie has become a forever family member for both the search unit and the Hidinger family.

There is something meaningful to be said about these rescue dogs being trained to rescue people, Dimmick said.

“Everyone deserves a second chance,” she said. “How ironic is it that a dog with a second chance has the opportunity to give a human a second chance?”

Pine Creek K-9 Search Unit and AMMAR Hounds can be found on Facebook.

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