This week's Working Dog Wednesday story might be the most inspiring one yet! It's hard to imagine this smart, friendly Search and Rescue K9 was once a timid shelter dog, who had lost hope waiting for a forever family. Luckily, Melissa, a local fire fighter and dog lover, came to the rescue and brought this special puppy home with her. Now, Chief is training as a SAR dog, and is the official mascot for the Hamel Fire Department, where he gets to hangout with his mom all the time! This WDW story goes out to you Chief!
Tell us a little about Chief. How long have you two been working together?
Chief just turned 3, he's a German Shepherd mix and he's actually a rescue. I rescued him from a local shelter. After integrating him and socializing him, I brought him to a group where we started training as a tracking and trailing K9.
His first year with me was training to gain him confidence, trust, and bond with me because as a rescue dog he was shy, not-confident, and scared. Now, he's jumping through trails to find people, doing obstacles he never would have looked at, and driving to train every day.
Describe Chief's job titles, he has quite a few!
Chief is actually part of a Search and Rescue group, and is featured quite a lot at the fire department I work for as a firefighter. We usually use Chief for the trainings that involve dogs, such as working with animals with smoke inhalation, or first aid. He also comes along with us in parades if it isn't too hot, or he sits up at the station and other social events.
He does Search and Rescue for another group. Currently, he is only doing live finds. We may move him into HRD, (Human Remains Detection) but we may save that for the upcoming puppy we are getting late summer/fall.
(Above: Chief trying out an oxygen mask specifically designed for animals. Pets can get smoke inhalation too.)
What is your favorite part of working with Chief?
Watching him grow has been the best thing. When I first got him, he was so scared and lacked confidence. After working with him, he has grown tremendously with confidence. He strives to do better everyday and will try just about anything I ask, he is always eager to please.
Being a part of the department helps him socialize and become familiar to different people, sounds, areas, surfaces, smells, etc. He loves to run through the fire trucks.
What is the training involved?
I have three jobs, and two happen to be volunteer, which are the jobs that include Chief. Chief is mostly involved in the Search and Rescue part, so we train with a SAR team. He doesn't come on fire calls, as they can be dangerous, so that's why he is more involved in the SAR. Most of my time is spent training with him, and bonding.
When I'm not training him in tracking/trailing and preparing for the certification tests, (which is close to everyday) then we are always doing obedience training. We are also constantly building our bond, focus, socializing, and his drive.
What are some fun things Chief gets to be involved in as the Hamel Fire House mascot?
Mostly parades, and just being in the community. If I'm up there, he's usually up there, which is a lot!
What do you and Chief like to do on your down time?
The most fun thing with Chief is just watching his personality grow. We do a ton of different, fun activities. To watch his response is great, he's a goof and a big teddy bear.
Thank you so much Melissa for taking the time to tell your story, we loved learning about Chief's amazing transformation and unique job! We truly appreciate you two, and the entire Hamel Fire Dept. for the tough work you constantly train for, and for your admirable dedication to keep your community safe. Thank you for your service!
Check out Chief's Instagram page to see more awesome photos: @k9chieffire
March 13th is National K9 Veterans' Day, so we have dedicated the entire month's Working Dog Wednesdays to honor all of the incredible working K9s and their handlers who serve and protect our country. We love sharing your dogs' amazing stories!