CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. (WTHI) - Vigo County’s next addition to the search and rescue team is taking his first steps. His first steps into his future career. We’ve been following Blaze’s career since he was just a pup.
Back in March, we introduced you to the cute puppy named Blaze. We all knew he would one day be a search and rescue and arson dog. But back then, we also knew that would be later. It was just time for him to enjoy being a puppy. Since then, we watched him in obedience school. We even caught up with him earlier this month to see how much he’s grown.
Now, you can say this past weekend has been the first days of the rest of his life. We caught up with Blaze and his handler Darrick Scott at the Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s search and rescue conference at Camp Atterbury.
“He’s doing okay,” said Darrick. “You know, five months old and he’s getting acclimated with the heat and the other K-9′s in the area.”
You can say this conference is an orientation for Blaze and Darrick. It’s a preview of what’s to come for them. These are cadaver dogs. They search for the deceased while Blaze will search for the lost or missing. But the techniques used by the handlers are the same, and that’s why Darrick is watching them closely.
“I see a lot of good dogs,” Darrick said. “I see a lot of great handlers, some of the best in the country. So me and Blaze had a little pep talk last night. We’re going to be every one of them.”
Sunday will be very tough day for Darrick and the rest of the search and rescue team. That’s because blaze will be leaving them, albeit temporarily, for Wisconsin to begin his training.
“He’ll be spending 8 weeks learning the basics of live tracking and trailing,” said Julie Cramer of Great Lakes Search and Rescue.
“I know me and my daughter are going to miss him a lot,” said Darrick. “It’s like gaining another child. I hate to see him go, but I’m ready for him to take that next step and start working.”
Julie Cramer has 30 years experience training dogs like blaze and is among the best in the country. When Vigo County approached her about getting a new dog, it was Julie who helped select Blaze from a litter of pups. It’s safe to say she saw something special in him.
“He came running out of the kennel and he was all about himself right from the beginning, and you really want that in an accelerant detection dog,” said Cramer. “They’ve got to be confident. They’ve got to be able to go into what will turn out to be a stressful situation and work on their own independent of their handler.”
Yes, Darrick and Vigo County EMA wanted to make sure Blaze got through obedience school successfully, but their main goal with him was to make sure he enjoyed just being a puppy. He’s certainly done that, and he still loves to play. But Darrick says he’s noticed a change in his pup. It seems as he grows, Blaze wants something more out of his life.
“He wants to be part of the tea, said Darrick. “He wants to get out there with the other dogs. He’s ready to work.”
And work he will! That “something more”, that “one day”.. is here. Darrick knows he and Blaze have a long way to go to match the skill of the handlers we saw at Camp Atterbury. But he also knows on the other end of the leash is a dog who has the makings of a wonderful partner.
“I think he’s excited about it, believe it or not,” said Darrick. “After having him since he was 8 weeks old, you can tell he’s ready to get going.”
“I think he has all the right attributes,” said Cramer. “I love the work Darrick has been doing with him. I think he’s ahead of the game for a 5-month old puppy.”
Darrick Scott plans to join Blaze in training once each month from July to September, and if Blaze is able to successfully complete search and rescue training, he will begin arson training early in 2015. The plan is for blaze to be state-certified in search and rescue “and” arson by this time next year.