By Sarah Johnson.
Record Staff Writer
Glenda Eichmeyer of Marthasville was interested in canine search and rescue and wanted to adopt a German shepherd.
Instead, she came home with “Hera,” a feisty little terrier mix.
“I was thinking about doing search and rescue,” Eichmeyer said. “A friend’s daughter worked for a vet and said they had shepherd mixes. I came home with Hera and (her littermate) Zena.”
According to the Search and Rescue Dog Organization website, a prospective search dogs must have agility, high intelligence and a strong drive for pack, prey or play. Eichmeyer said she thought Hera, now almost 4 years old, fit the bill.
“She’s very hyper,” she said. “I call her ADHD. And she’s ball driven — she’ll do anything for a ball. If I hide a ball, Hera will hunt and hunt until she finds it. A search dog must be willing to search for more than five minutes.”
Eichmeyer and Hera started training for certification about three years ago when the little brown dog was a young puppy. Even with her jobs as art teacher, volunteer firefighter and paramedic, Eichmeyer still found 10 or more hours a week to train Hera.
Earlier this month, Eichmeyer and Hera passed the Canine Search and Rescue Technician (SARTECH) III certification.
The test, taken through the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR), was designed to evaluate the ability of the team to locate a single victim during daylight hours in a 40- to 60-acre area. They were given 1 1/2 hours to complete the task.
“You had to use a compass and had to know exactly where you were at,” she said. “You had to show on the map where the victim was found. You also had to know when your dog had the scent.”
Eichmeyer said there are a couple different types of tracking dogs — those that follow a scent trail and those that sniff the scent through the air. Hera started as a trail scent dog, but Eichmeyer quickly discovered the dog was much better at air scents. Hera’s keen nose and ability to locate a victim by sniffing the air is what Eichmeyer thinks will qualify her for another level of certification — disaster search and rescue.
“After the Joplin tornado, I wanted to be able to help,” she said. “Something like that could happen around here. We want to be ready.”
Eichmeyer and Hera are part of the Canine Search and Rescue Association (CSARA) that has members in Franklin, St. Charles, St. Louis and Warren counties. Although the newly certified human-doggy duo hasn’t yet been on a mission, they are now part of a team that has done more than 130 searches with dogs that specialize in trailing, air scent and human remains detection. The organization provides certified search teams to law, fire and other agencies at no charge.
For more information on search and rescue canines, visit www.nasar.org.