Sunday, April 28, 2013

What a difference....two days in April.

 At this moment in time, Bert is
fast asleep or maybe
he has just passed out from exhaustion.
I am coming down from a caffeine high.
I only have caffeine when I
am driving long distances,
like coming back from today's search. 
I think I had four Pepsi's today
driving to and from the scene. 
Now I am jittery and nervous and
a bit jealous of Mr. Bert
lying peacefully in his bed.
 Saturday was our usual "Walk"
with our friends.  This is
a great time for both Bert and
me as we get to visit/play at our
precious river and local "Forest".
There are usually 5 to 20 people with
their k-9 friends who show up and it is
looked forward to all week.
Murphy's little sister becomes hitched to
Berts Side on these walks.  And sweet Bert
has an arrangement with Paulette
(Sophies human).
If Bert lets Sophie hang on him, run by him,
nibble at his ear, grab his hear, jump on him,
around him, behind him in front of him,
if he takes all her adoration in stride......Paulette will
treat him throughout the walk. 
That works for Bert
 When Bert isn't in the river, he is bounding
up dirt mountains and green hillsides.
It is a time of pure abandonment for him,
his buddy Goose (who was off
somewhere else as I took pictures)
and all his other friends.
 Occasionally we can get a few of them
to sit and pose.  (From left to right)
Annie, Bert, Sophie, KC, and Jake
After the walk, we spent the rest of the
day working at the kennels with Whitney and
Rocky.  It was a long day but it was also
a beautiful spring day and so work just
doesn't seem like work on a day like this.
Sunday Morning we had been asked
to head to Idaho
for a search.  (which by the way,
I couldn't have done
if it werent for my sweet neice Whitney
and Goose's human, Michelle who
covered for me at the kennel)
We were going to meet up with
another dog unit on sight. 
We have worked with them
before and they are very very good
so I was looking forward to working
with them again.
Unfortunately I woke up to a
nasty infection and
some painful muscle strain in my
shoulder from pretending
I could do the work of a man the day before.
A decision had to be made.
Do I want to stay home and be miserable,
sick and in pain, or head to Idaho and be
miserable and in pain.
Well of course we headed out.  I mean,
check out the scenery
that we had on the drive.
You might as well be looking
at something beautiful
while your in pain, rather
than lying in bed.....right?
Besides, that is what medications
are for.  Thank goodness for Advil.....
 I love our Utah Mountains.
When we hit Idaho
and our search area we were pulled
away from the mountains in to gorgeous meadows and pastures
bursting with early spring green growth.
 While Bert and I were waiting for the
Sheriff and my friends JD and
Sandra, a group of motorcycle riders
pulled up to the country grill.
I couldn't resist asking them to pose
with him.  They were awfully
good sports.  However a few
of them would not allow me
to photograph them
for one reason or another......
they said not to
check out any post office walls.
Wonder what they meant.
And here is where the search was.
What a peaceful land, gentle hills, dark
sky's filled with moisture.....a place
that you would find me and Bert on any
other day, walking the tracks like a hobo,
waiving at the conductors of the trains as they
thundered by.  The next view is from 4
months ago on an early morning in January.
But today it was the scene
of a cadaver search where we were looking
for anything we could find so that a family
could bury as much of their loved
one as possible.
 The accident occurred back in January on
a dark foggy morning.  A wonderful
man who I am told was a happy go lucky, friendly guy.  A guy who would be
behind you in a check out line and
suddenly offer to buy your groceries for you.
The guy who always played
Santa at Christmas time.
That kind of guy.   But on this morning
because of the weather, he did not
see the on coming train, he did not know
it was the last time he would
drive this road home to his family.
 The accident derailed 16 cars and
debris from both the truck and the
train-cars was spread all over
the side of the tracks. 
Three months later and even
though they have laid another thick
layer of gravel
down the hillside from the tracks,
debris is still everywhere. 
Our job was to work through
this debris and see if the dogs could
find any human remains under
the new rock layer or
down in the swamp below.
Here if you look carefully you can see
Kurts dog on a "Down" alert in
everal inches of water and dried
cat tail plants.    This area will have
to be dug and sifted
through screens and will most likely
have fragments of bone and flesh.
 JD the man I told you about in an earlier
post worked tirelessly through
the day, checking
out each and every alert
with the other deputies.
This was hard for me to watch as
it is JD's sisters husband who is
our victim.  It doesn't matter
how long you have been doing
this, it doesn't matter
how much we have seen......sometimes
it is just too close to home...
 Sandra (JD's wife) was working with me through much of the day.
Oh how I have missed these two
over the last few years.
You meet special people in SAR
work that stand out from
the rest.  That is JD and Sandra.
 Joe and Gunny check out the area along
the tracks as the wind blows up hill, carrying
human scent buried beneath the ground
as well as anything along the surface.
 Bert waits "not so patiently" for his turn
to work again.  
 If you look carefully you can see a small
red flag on a long post.  When a dog alerts to
something below the surface, the spot is
flagged then the diggers come in
and carefully sift through the area.
The finds today were as small
as tufts of human hair, small pieces
of skin and a 6 inch bone. 
 Moist areas can trap the scent and
make things cover a wider area
so we often mark an alert
then leave the area with the dog
and let the diggers
come and see what they can find. 
After words the dogs are brought
back into the area to see
if there is more interest. 
Cadaver work is much more arduous than
wilderness work.  You are covering
a much smaller area, but it is very intense.
The grids are small and you often
go over the area again and again
which can be frustrating to your dog.
I imagine them thinking "how many
times do I have to tell her"
 It was almost time to call it quits and I knew
Bert needed something a little less intense so
I put him on a "Slow Search" command and
we headed in the opposite direction
along the tracks.
I knew he wouldn't find anything on
this side of the road
but it would give him a chance to stretch
out and check out a couple of 
hundred yards of the tracks at a lope
instead of a more concentrated speed.
 I have always loved the endless sight
along railroad tracks.  Even in this situation
the call of adventure draws at your heart
when you view a sight like this.
 But it was time to get back in the old van
and head home to another kind of dream.
Of course taking pictures of the scenery
while you are driving isn't what
I would recommend but come on,
doesn't that old barn, those snow
covered mountains and the introduction
of spring on the grassy hill make ya smile?


  1. What a fantastic adventure! The pictures look like post cards
    Benny & Lily

  2. Glad you both are back. And before I tell you how wonderful your photos are just let me say this: DO NOT take pictures while you are the driver! I do NOT want to have to go out and search for you and Bert a long the road side, I don't care how beautiful the scenery. Pull over next time. Or at the very least let Bert drive or have him take the pictures.
    Hope your feeling better. And you and Bert do good work for being "retired".

  3. Sorry, Vickie, but I was about to say the same thing as Goose. I'll restrain myself.

    You and Bert are an amazing pair. I guess that Bert never forgets, even though you don't train regularly anymore. I'm so sorry that the search was needed at all but I'm proud to know the two of you, who give selflessly to help out.

    That last photo of Bert is glorious!

  4. It was great to see all your beautiful pictures of the playing and working dogs. We love that last picture of Bert. BTW we agree with Goose about picture taking while driving. Stay safe.

    Millie & Walter

  5. Beautiful pictures. We remember when this tragic accident happened. So very sad. God bless you Bert and Miss Vickie for helping the family with your special skills
    Bailey, Hazel &Greta

  6. Wonderful pics, but the last one really made our Mommy smile! Glad you are back safely. Have a great Monday! XOXO

  7. Such a beautiful area. Too bad it was a sad reason for being there. But it's such valuable work.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

    Oh, and thanks for explaining everything to us.

  8. You and Bert do incredible work, Miss Vickie! Such beautiful scenery but we love the last picture best!

    Love ya lots,
    Mitch and Molly

  9. I hope that those family folks can get what they need to help them move on. You did such a good thing that day. Good to see Bert in action too. Love the biker guys. We will try not to look too carefully at the post office walls....just in case!

  10. You are a wonderful soul for putting your aches and pains behind you and heading out to do search work. I know the families appreciate all your efforts.

    Mango Momma

  11. What a journey for all involved. We're so sorry to hear about the circumstances. That is such hard work for all involved both emotionally and physically. We thank God every day for wonderful people and furends like you and your group for the work that needs to be done.

    Lily Belle & Muffin

  12. I feel sorry for the man and for his family. Hope they will find him. I know, that's a hard piece of work for dogs and humans - thanks for being a searching dog, Bert and thanks to your Vickie for doing such a great job. Ans thanks for sharing this post with me.

  13. Bert & Vickie, thanks for sharing a difficult moment, and that doggies can help with such a bad task, Bert you and your pals make us smile. Looks like your time with the pack at home was fun, hope it relieved the stress!

    The Mad Scots

  14. Although the work is hard and with such a sad reason, it must be very rewarding to know that somehow you are helping another human with their loss. Beautiful photos. And thanks for the explanation of how the search is conducted. Kudos to all the peeps and pups who work so hard.

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

  15. Dis post broughted tears to my eyeballs. What a blessin' it is to has peoples like da Miss Vickie and dogs like you Bert to be ables to bring closure to families. What a difference in their lives a search likes dis makes..
    I can not even begin to tells you how beautiful da fotos is.


  16. Beautiful pictures...but such a sad post. I'm glad we found your new blog. Why did you move?

    We were wondering, what kind of camera does your mom use? Your pictures are always so clear and in perfect focus!

    We also love the site of railroad tracks, stretching on endlessly. Our mom wants to take pictures of us walking along the tracks, but she hasn't found a set of tracks that are "just right" yet.

  17. Yes, you made us smile, but also brought a tear to our eyes. Such important work you and your friends do Bert.
    Glad you are enjoying the beautiful country side. We are going through "Break-Up" right now. It is when all the snow melts and it make a big mess everywhere! In a couple weeks it will all dry up and things will be good!

  18. Miss Vickie and Bert... we KNOW how difficult this always is.. and we want to simply say... YOU TWO are HEROES in OUR BOOK !!

  19. Wow, what an increadable event to take part in. Your photos are amazing and they make me feel like I am there.

  20. Oh gosh, mom and I didn't even know you and Bert did search & rescue too! You two are just amazing!

  21. Very interesting! I applaud your work!

  22. I loved your post!
    Good job!
    Kisses and hugs

  23. What a great post! Me was sad to hears yous was not feeling good, but happy to hears yous gots to helps your furrends. It was a bitter sweet meeting!

  24. I can only imagine what comfort is must be to the family of that man. God rest his soul and may his family have peace.

    Thank you for all of your hard work.


  25. You amd Miss Vickie do such an awesome job at all these seard and rescue!!

  26. Hi Miss Vickie and Bert, thank you for sharing this day with us! This area reminds me of the part of Idaho above Bear Lake, Utah. Beautiful scenery. You are both angels for your SAR work. Loved the photos of Bert with his friends-you take incredible pics! What a gift. Sending love, hugs and wags your way today.

  27. That is just amazing. You do the coolest stuff, Bert, even though it's not always happy. We really admire you!


  28. All of you in SAR, especially those who go in after disasters hunting for remains, deserve medals. Without your help there would be endless pain and no closure for so many families. Thank you all for your dedication and compassion.

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