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  • Nanette Marks

They call him the Rescue Pony!

Contributed by Kelly McGonigle

They call him the Rescue Pony.

I didn’t start out to get into Search and Rescue work. Rory and I attended a dog show for socialization opportunities when he was just over a year old. I stopped to chat with a volunteer Search and Rescue organization called SARQuest, and they asked if we’d be interested in giving it a try – they were holding temperament testing in a couple weeks.

At the time, I figured Rory would be hopeless. He sometimes struggled to locate dropped treats right in front of his snoot, and he wasn’t the sharpest crayon in the box. While he LOVED to learn basic obedience, he picked up new “tricks” slowly and needed patient, methodical guidance to master new activities. Lassie, he was NOT. In addition, he has the lazy hound temperament that finds him lounging on the couch most days. But I didn’t see how the experience would hurt, so I agreed, and we signed up.

His temperament test measured basic obedience, people and dog friendliness, and if he was easily startled. He passed, so again I figured “why not?” and showed up to the next training session. I told him on the drive over that we’d go just as long as he was having a good time.

We became hooked. SARQuest is a volunteer group that teaches volunteers how to train their own dogs for use in search and rescue. There are no breed restrictions, and the dogs Rory and I train with range from a coonhound, border collie, rottweiler, German Shepherd, labs, and a couple mixed breeds. Rory still stands out (literally!). He’s not the usual search dog. We’ve only heard of one other Wolfhound in search and rescue, in Germany.

We’ve continued training because, much to my shock, he LOVES it. His entire demeanor changes at the words “Go, Find!”. He becomes alert. Ears up. Head swiveling. Nose working. He has a posture that I observe only when he’s on the hunt. He’s got a job, he understands what he needs to do, and he lives for those moments.

We’re not yet certified – certification usually takes around two years, and we’re still working toward our goal. I must give up my Sundays and purchase all his equipment myself. But it’s worth it just to see that shift – the utter joy and sense of purpose he feels when he gets to do his job.

“Go, Find!”

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