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This article was published 8/4/2019 (221 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Luke has a nose for trouble.
Rescue canine team Leon Flannigan and his dog Luke were on hand at the West End Community Centre Saturday afternoon showcasing their incredible field skills for guests at the Brandon Regional Search and Rescue Association open house.
A 20-month-old Belgian Malinois, Luke has excelled as a search-and-rescue dog, Flannigan said. An intelligent dog with a strong drive to work makes search and rescue the perfect job for him.
"He wants to go, go, go," Flannigan said. "He’s very smart, he’s a great dog."
Luke was government certified as a search dog last September through the Office of the Fire Commissioner and is now ready to head out on missions this summer if his special set of skills are needed.
This year alone, Luke and Flannigan have already spent about 170 recorded hours training for missions.
Many of the aspects of canine search and rescue were on display a the open house, starting with the process of article searching.
"They’re (search dogs) just looking for a human scent. They look for any type of article that you could imagine," Flannigan said.
There is an advantage to this method because it can potentially identify objects associated with a missing person, helping narrow down the area where resources should be deployed.
Other demonstrations included tracking, a practice that is nothing like what people imagine, Flannigan said.
"It’s nothing like the movies, seriously; there’s none of this holding a rag (for him to smell)," Flannigan said.
Instead, dogs are trained to find the freshest human track in the area and follow to its source.
"You can tell that the dog has found someone because it raises its head and starts to pull once it can smell them close by," Flannigan said.
Flannigan completed his demonstration with people searches, a no-leash activity where the dog is let loose to find a missing person.
Following scents on the wind, a dog can locate where a person may be from about 1.5 kilometres away when the conditions are right. However, a dog can miss someone from a metre away if the wind is blowing the wrong way.
"When you’re doing a search, you have to use the wind and weather conditions to your advantage," Flannigan said.
Luke’s keen nose often finds trails sooner then Flannigan expects.
"I just enjoy doing it," he said. "And, there’s the added benefit of giving back to the community."
Luke and Flannigan’s demonstrations were a standout at the open house for Duane Pullinger, who attended the event with his wife to find out more about Brandon Regional Search and Rescue and possibly become a member.
"We like the dog aspect of tracking," Pullinger said, adding they were impressed by the canine’s abilities.
A retiree from the Canadian forces, Pullinger found the group encompassed skills he had used before, but in a civilian aspect.
Recruiting new members and raising the group's profile in the community were two of the key aspects that inspired Brandon Search and Rescue to hold its first open house, chairman Robin Ponto said.
"It’s to show what we do for Brandon," Ponto said. "We’re there as that resource if someone gets lost, and we try and make sure i’s a successful outcome for everybody."
Celebrating their seventh anniversary next month, the group has largely grown based on word of mouth.
Falling under the umbrella of Search and Rescue Manitoba and the Office of the Fire Commissioner, Brandon Regional Search and Rescue is made up of a group of more than 30 active members from all walks of life professionally trained in ground search and rescue.
The open house was an opportunity to share what the group has learned and practised over the years while giving guests tips on the skills they need to survive if they are lost in the wild.
With the weather slowly warming up in Westman, Brandon Regional Search and Rescue will soon be facing its busiest season of the year, and the tips shared at the open house will help keep people safe and hopefully inspire them to join the crew, Ponto said.
"It’s for people who are concerned about the community and want to help, that’s the biggest thing," Ponto said. "When people are running away from what’s going on, we’re the people running towards what’s going on."
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