Interview Questions with a Search and Rescue Dog


Sarah and Brand

Sarah and Brand

Tell us a little about yourself — your work, family, past pet history?

I grew up in the Delta of Mississippi with a family dog — a wonderful Labrador Retriever whom I will always love. She was so patient and loving with her family.  But the first dog I owned as an adult is my current dog, so I did not start out as the most experienced dog handler. In addition, my dog is a whole lot more active, frisky, mischievous, and independent than our childhood Lab was. So I have had my hands full.

I am single and also have a busy career. I work as a marketing and branding consultant for companies that prefer to outsource their marketing strategy needs rather than hire full-time directors or vice-presidents of marketing on staff. I love the variety involved in directing the marketing strategy for companies from a wide variety of industries. There’s nothing I enjoy more than helping people who have taken a lot of risk in founding their companies and have already achieved so much to grow their customer base, achieve a higher public profile and greater credibility, earn more publicity, and get the recognition for their talent and experience that they deserve.

With that kind of work life, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to care for or train a dog. But a providential encounter led me to my dog, and the rest is history.

 1. Who is your dog — name, age, breed?

My dog’s name is Brand, he’s seven years old, and he’s part Siberian Husky and part Shar-Pei. His name comes from my desire to give him a strong, one-syllable manly name [he had a bad start in life and looked like a very ugly, dying possum when I found him], and also from a saying by John Wesley.  Wesley was rescued from the second story of a burning house as a five-year-old boy when several men formed a “human ladder” to pull him from a window — and he always referred to himself as “a brand plucked from the burning.”  Since my dog Brand was a rescue also, I thought that was a good strong name for him.

 2. Does he have a job — companion, pet, therapy dog, SAR, athlete?

Brand works in K9 Search and Rescue — searching for missing people on a K9 SAR team called South Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association. We are a team of volunteer professionals and highly trained search dogs dedicated to helping find those who are lost, from children to hikers, to Alzheimer’s patients, to drowning victims. We offer a specialized K-9 SAR service for emergency service agencies to use during missing person searches. Our team is called out by sheriff’s departments, fire departments, and other emergency services agencies when they need some additional resources in searches for missing people.

3. How did you hear about ARCC?

My rehab vet in Atlanta, Dr. Orenbuch, told me that Brand needed class IV laser treatment for his carpal ligament injury — and that I needed to find a provider closer to home here in the Upstate.  She did not want me to have to drive to Atlanta for Brand to receive that treatment, so I went on a search for a veterinary provider here.  There aren’t a whole lot of class IV laser machines here in Greenville, but I found Animal Rehab and Conditioning Center on the web.  I looked through Dr. Kennedy’s website and really liked what I saw, then communicated with her via email.  One thing I really appreciate about her is that, while she is an expert in rehabilitative veterinary care, she is also very respectful of the veterinarians who have been in charge of Brand’s care during his injury. She was able to integrate seamlessly into his care team and, while willing to offer counsel from her expertise, has not been pushy or overbearing.  She has a wealth of wisdom to offer, along with many advanced rehabilitative tools.

4. Why are you coming to ARCC? (weight loss, injury, surgical, conditioning, etc.)

Brand has received consistent laser treatment for two ligament injuries over the past year along with some maintenance treatment. Injuries are a part of a SAR dog’s life and I am very happy to have a facility here that can offer rehabilitative treatment, in conjunction with his regular veterinarian whom Brand sees regularly, Dr. Ann Malphrus of North Greenville Animal Hospital.

 5. What types of therapy have you done for this issue prior to coming to ARCC?

Brand had received traditional veterinary care — x-rays, medication, and further diagnostic help from an orthopedic specialist in order to accurately pinpoint his problem and rule out other more serious issues.  Once that was done and his injury was more finely-diagnosed, all of us realized that, while he didn’t need surgery, he did need something in order for him to recover successfully.  From that point I went on the hunt for further treatment options other than simply a long season of crate rest. At the time I did not know of ARCC or Dr. Kennedy, and ended up in Atlanta where Brand receives excellent care. It was there that I received encouragement to seek further laser treatment here in the Upstate. It’s a great relief to also have Dr. Kennedy here in the Upstate; she is a valuable resource for the area.

 6. What are some things you wish you had known or done better prior to your dog’s injury/health issues?

Boy — there are a lot!  I wish I’d moved to softer surfaces for his running sooner.  I wish that I’d recognized that he was injured earlier rather than simply thinking that maybe he was just “slowing down” or had lost conditioning. And I wish I’d been more careful about the effect of impact on his carpal ligaments — for instance, I’d never let even a young dog jump off of the back of a truck bed now.  There’s just too much opportunity for wear and tear or significant sudden injury on that fragile area of a dog’s leg.

 7.  What are some things you have done right over the years with your dog?

I’m glad I started him on fish oil and Dasuquin early, well before he was injured.  I began doing that at the advice of Dr. Malphrus when I asked her early on what I could do to help Brand’s joints before he aged. I’m glad I purchased two memory foam, orthopedic beds for him when he was very young. I’m glad I had him on a grain-free, higher protein quality food. And I’m very very glad that I have exercised him and kept him in good condition and at a fit weight for his lifetime. That has only helped his recovery from injury. Fortunately I have always had the sense that from the very beginning of a dog’s life, you are preparing in a sense for that dog’s healthy, active aging. I didn’t always know what to do, but I did know that the positive things I did could only help him later on in life. I’ve always wanted Brand to have an enjoyable, productive, and hopefully long working life, and a happy, active, content retired life. We don’t always get that for our dogs — accidents or genetic weaknesses can befall any creature — but there are things we can do that will make health and mobility more likely.

 8. What are you doing differently now?

I’m a lot more proactive about possible injuries — I don’t wait nearly as long if I suspect something. I also watch him more carefully and have him stretch and do other strength building exercises. I also use ice on his carpal area after extensive work. And I have committed to a continuous maintenance plan for his activity level, which is high.

 9. Have you learned anything you will use for your next pet?

I plan to get a new dog a lot more used to being significantly “handled” — Brand has been uncomfortable with some of the deeper work that has been needed for his recovery. I will definitely get a new dog assessed thoroughly by a rehabilitative vet so that we can prepare early for any structural or other problems that may develop later. And I’ll start any dog on strength building and stretching work early on. Brand and I have always run together [at least, since he finished most of his growing], but we didn’t do enough other types of fitness work that strengthens his core and hips — areas that stabilize his body so that he won’t get injured easily.

Overall, I will start much earlier on habits that need to be built over a lifetime with a dog.

 10. Have you used integrative medicine (physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, pain management, etc.) in the past for your pet — if so, what?

I only began this kind of veterinary care with Brand’s carpal ligament injury. I would begin that much sooner if I had it to do over. And hopefully I will be a more knowledgeable dog handler should I get a second dog.

11. Have you yourself ever experienced integrative medicine — physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, pain management?

I have — and I have loved it. One of the best things I’ve done for myself is deep tissue massage[sometimes called “rolfing”]. It helps work out some of the obvious muscular imbalances and tightness that I have and helps me run more freely and easily.

3 Responses to Interview Questions with a Search and Rescue Dog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *