It was so much fun meeting Lilly Dotolo and the adorable Micky, but sadly our time was short. Fortunately, we were able to ask Lilly a few more questions….
Not often enough! We try to participate whenever there are events held in Hampton Roads, such as at World of Pets Expo held annually at the Hampton Roads Convention Center, Shipps Corner pet spa and Neptune Festival on the boardwalk. In 2019, Mickey received an invitation to DockDogs World Championship in Dubuque, IA for his qualifying speed retrieve times, but we did not make the trip.
Mickey has really made huge “leaps” in the distance of his jumps. Did you do any special training to help him with this?
He just naturally loves to jump off docks, piers, and diving boards! It helps that he is extremely ball-driven – so he’ll chase a ball down anywhere. He swims in the ocean year round, and we hike sometimes daily in First Landing State Park, so I think he’s become stronger and faster. This May he jumped a personal best at the North America Diving Dogs event held at Shipps Corner with a leap of 21’10” off the dock.
I had been missing something in my life, and I think it was a calling to serve my community. Last fall we started training with Greater Atlantic Rescue Dogs (GARD). A friend of mine who is on the team and knew Mickey’s drive and disposition had been trying to get us involved for a couple of years, and I finally made time.
How long have you been volunteering with GARD?
We started last fall, and it’s typically an 18 month to 2 year process to become a certified operational team. Mickey and I have to train individually and as unit. It has been both challenging and rewarding. Mickey loves the “game” of search and rescue, because for the dog it’s all about following human scent to locate a lost or missing person and then getting rewarded for the find.
For me, the biggest learning curve was becoming proficient at land navigation using map and compass. Training also involves gaining an understanding of scent theory, lost person behavior, and completing National Incident Management System coursework through FEMA as well as VDEM programming, CPR/First Aid and K9 first aid.
What has been the most significant event/discovery you and Mickey have helped with?
When I passed my 10 acre land navigation field test and learned basic radio communications, I became what’s called COQ, which stands for call-out qualified to go on searches in Virginia. Responding to requests from VDEM to assist with efforts to find a lost/missing person makes me feel like I am part of something bigger than me, something that matters. I’m realizing that these missions involve many different agencies and there are many moving parts, but at the end of the day, everyone involved is working toward the same end: to bring home someone’s loved one.
How much of a weekly time commitment is it to be a volunteer with GARD?
We train every weekend year-round, plus some mid-week, about 10 hours a week. We train at night and during the day in all weather conditions in wilderness and urban/disaster settings. Training locations vary from week to week and are scheduled about six months in advance.
What would you say to people considering getting involved in search and rescue work?
The main thing is you have to have a high-drive dog, one who will push through all kinds of conditions to get rewarded. The breed doesn’t matter, although typical SAR dogs include shepherds, malinois and retrievers and they should be age 3 or younger to start training because it takes time. For the human, I would say, you have to be committed to the mission because there are significant costs and time required. When your team is dispatched to a search, you have to be ready to go with no notice and ready to travel anywhere in the state.
We all love our pets and do our best to keep them safe. For information on Invisible Fences cutting-edge solutions to your furry friends’ needs, make sure to contact them at (757) 595-5657, or check out their website www.invisiblefence.com
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