Search and rescue dogs train in open Terrace Hall

Meranda Watling

Harley, a rambunctious 2-year-old chocolate lab, runs along the perimeter of Terrace Hall dragging his owner, Elaine Shaver, behind him.

Darting from one orange flag to another, he sniffs along the building, in the bushes and past a red fire hydrant. He doesn’t stop to play or pay attention to the traffic whizzing by. He’s on a trail.

The trail leads him from a sock near the main entrance on the east side, around the building and to Kathleen Adamle, hidden behind a half-open door in the basement of the building.

“He gets a mission on his mind, and that’s usually what he focuses on,” Shaver said.

Saturday several members of the Northern Ohio Search Emergency Services, a canine search and rescue team, came to Kent State for their weekend training. The group chose Kent State to take advantage of an empty building, said Brenda Sparks, who has 13 years experience in search and rescue.

“Indoors it’s hard to find a facility (to train),” she said. “You can’t just take the dogs into the dorms. There are people everywhere.”

Adamle, assistant professor of nursing and member of the group, said she worked with the Kent State Police and Residence Services to set up the training. She said it was a good example of the university and community working together.

In Terrace, volunteer “live victims” were spread among the rooms and the dogs found them.

Much of the group’s training is done in the wilderness at parks or on private property throughout the region, but training in buildings is also important.

“The dogs need to learn how a scent carries and the air flow moves indoors,” Adamle said. “It’s different from outdoors. It’s just a totally different way to work.”

Training at Terrace allowed Kim Beck, of Ashland County, and Luna, her 2-year-old white German shepherd, to gain experience in a new environment.

“Just being in here with the different noises and stuff, it’s good for her,” Beck said.

The group trains every weekend but holidays, Sparks said. To qualify to go out on a search, the dog and handler must maintain at least 50 percent attendance at the training.

“It’s like tuning up your car,” Sparks said. “(The dogs) just get rusty.”

Contact public affairs reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected].