Updated: Aug 17
Most people picture a dog running up to them, barking. A person is close behind, and within seconds you know you are safe.
That isn't quite how it works. Kinda, but not quite.
Search dogs wear a bell. If you are sitting alone in the woods, you will soon figure out why this is important. Picture leaning against a tree at night, ankle broken and painful. You hear rustling nearby, and something rushing toward you. Lions and tigers and bears, oh no!
So our dogs wear friendly-sounding bells, so you know help is arriving...not a bear. When you hear the sound of a bell, go ahead and call out if you can.
OK, now the dog comes running up to you. Probably flops on you, climbs on you a bit, acts very happy. You may get kisses. (This is called "The Find").
Then, wait a moment, the dog is running away! NO! Come back!
No worries. The dog is going to get the human handler, the one with the thumbs and radios and such. This is called The Refind. That human may be 100 yards away - our dogs sometimes find at pretty big distances. The dog is going to lead the human to you.
If this is a training session, everyone will now make a huge deal about the dog, and there will be a small party. Playing tug or fetch, hugs and scritches.
If this is a real search, help is now on the way. Teams may be called in to give you medical assistance and/or help in getting out of the area. You may need to wait for rope systems or a litter and carry team to be brought in. Just know we are all working as quickly and safely as possible, and we're going to get you what you need.
Over time, that sound of the bell has become so comforting. It is the sound of caring. I hope you never have to listen for it when you are in trouble, but if you do, know you are going to be safe very soon.