When I Grow Up | Search And Rescue Dog | Whitehall Photography / by Sharon Whitehall


 The second installment of ‘When I Grow Up’:

 I met Tracy through a mutual friend.  When I found out that she had a new pup that was going to be trained I thought she would be perfect for the ‘When I Grow Up’ story.  The pet photographer was excited!  We met at Forest Park for our photo shoot.


Tracy is owned by Holmes and Watson.  Holmes is a three-month-old German Short Haired Pointer and will be trained as a cadaver dog.  She will train and certify for land, rubble and water along with disaster.  It takes at least 18 months to train a Cadaver K9 for land. Any additional environment such as rubble, water or disaster adds more time to that commitment.

Watson is three years old and is a Bloodhound/Lab mix.  She is a Tracking/Trailing K9. She is scent specific, so she is given a scent article from the missing person. A sock, pillowcase if subject walks away from a car she can get scent from the door handle and follow their specific trail. Her alert is a sit at the correct subject. It takes anywhere from 18 months to 3 years to train a trailing K9. They are the most difficult to train because you are asking them to be able to lock on just one scent and find that person, no matter how much contamination is present.

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Holmes, Watson and Tracy train with SAR K9 CO-OP, INC which is based out of Fairview Heights, IL.

They train a minimum of 2 days per week and a bit more now with Holmes in the picture.  Each K9 must pass their CGC-Canine Good Citizens test before they can test for certification. Each Handler must pass a national test (SAR TECH II) for a NASAR certification before they can test with their K9 for certification. Most homeland securities states require the handler pass this test as well before attempting to certify their K9 for Homeland Security or FEMA certifications. Another handler may not certify your K9 for you. You must work as a team and show you are able to find the subject together, without help from anyone else. Training isn’t just for the dogs, we are required to carry 35-40-pound pack in addition to water and first aid supplies for our K9 for our certifications and are required to re-certify every 3 years.

Each discipline requires different criteria to meet standards. The basic disciplines are Area Scent, Tracking/Trailing, Cadaver and Disaster.


Not all dogs have what it takes to become a SAR K9. There is no single best breed for SAR work. Most breeds or mixes are potential SAR K9’s. SAR dogs have a very high drive. They are the ones that explore off on their own and are a little “high strung.” They are the crazy ones in the litter.


All SAR teams hold their motto of:


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SAR-K9 train by this code because a life is on the line. They cry behind the police lines, out of sight from the families when the outcome is unbearable but know at least the family will have closure. They celebrate…again behind the lines out of sight when they have a live find. Tracy says, "I am 51 years old and there are few emotions that will ever beat being part of finding a loved one and returning them home to their families!"  They train in brutal weather, so they are ready for real life. Except for FEMA teams, almost all SAR teams across the US are volunteer and receive no local, state or federal help. All training, gear, vet bills, etc.… are out of their own pockets.

If you want to connect with SAR K9 CO-OP. 

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/SAR-K9-CO-OP-INC-373833496066026/

Website:  www.sark9coopinc.org

Whitehall Photography

Sharon Whitehall | Whitehall Photographer | Serving St. Louis, Ballwin, Chesterfield, Wildwood, O'Fallon, St. Charles and surrounding areas.

~~Photographing Pets and their Families~~