Train a hero

Remember the fun of playing “hide and seek”? You can ramp up the fun by playing this game at Disaster City® during a training session for Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) dogs.

Disaster City® is a 52-acre training facility in College Station, TX with large scale mock disaster sites that the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) uses to train emergency responders. Volunteers pose as ‘victims’ in need of rescue. You might find yourself in a ‘collapsed’ building or derailed train, wondering when someone will find you! You will experience the excitement of being discovered and the fun of rewarding your canine ‘hero’ who finds you.  As a bonus, you will feel good about yourself – because you know you’re a key part of the team needed to help train  the SAR dogs. These dogs truly are heroes for the people that they find in real emergency situations!

If you’re theatrically-inclined, sign up for a ‘moulage required’ shift and maybe try a little play acting! You will have make-up applied to simulate injuries sustained during the mock disaster. These scenarios allow first-responders to practice decision-making skills and lend a greater sense of realism for all involved.

Volunteer opportunities are available at various times throughout the year. For more information, go to the TEEX Disaster Preparedness & Response web site for the Disaster City Volunteer Program. Click on Canine Training to get a description of the experience and list of upcoming dates. Or sign up for their mailing list of volunteer opportunities.

Train a dog to be a hero! …… All you have to do is hide.

Categories: Working Dogs

Who’s behind all of this?


This is the primary VSMR team, although one person seems to be missing. Do you know who it is? Perhaps we’ll catch a glimpse of her later!

A new beginning…

We had a blog, but is no longer going to be supported, so we’ll make a new start here! Our goal is just to make people aware of interesting topics related to sporting/working dogs, and veterinary rehabilitation of all types of animals.


On occasion I meet someone who says, “Why do you spend your life treating dogs? Think of all the children in the world who need medical attention!” I know. Most of you would not say such a thing, and when I meet someone with this opinion, I’m often too stunned to have a good reply.

On a personal level, we see how dogs are an integral part of many families and function as surrogate children for many. But it’s hard to explain that to a person who’s never experienced that sort of bond with an animal.

Sometimes we forget all the other ways in which dogs impact our society. The police dogs, the search and rescue dogs, dogs who help people with psychological problems such as depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, dogs who assist people with autism or seizures… not to mention the service dogs who help people with vision, hearing or mobility issues!

Excalibur, Excalibur. What a great name for a dog! Excalibur, a dog who used to fear running water, was in the news yesterday for saving his master from drowning in a bathtub that was filling with water. Excalibur was trained by the Texas Hearing and Service Dogs organization.

Next time someone asks me why people devote so much time and energy to keeping dogs healthy, I’ll know what to say. “Excalibur!”

Categories: Uncategorized


Most people have heard of rehabilitation, but are you familiar with the term ‘pre-habilitation’? It refers to exercises and activities performed in order to prevent injuries. This is particularly important for canine athletes or working dogs.

This weekend, canine Search and Rescue Dogs from all over North America came to train at Disaster City, in College Station, TX. This is the training center where Texas Task Force-1 (TX-TF 1) does much of their training.

In addition to their search training, handlers learned various stretching and strengthening exercises that they will be able to use to help keep their dogs in top condition. Dr. Cindy Otto, director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center was on hand to teach the exercises.

Dr. Cindy Otto demonstrates a 'high-5' exercise for shoulder strengthening

Dr. Cindy Otto demonstrates a

Members of the Texas A&M University Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VET) were also on site to address any physical problems. Dr. Deb Zoran instructed the handlers regarding screening examinations that they could do on their dogs to check for any problems while in the field.

Dr. Zoran discusses physical exams with the canine handlers.

Dr. Zoran discusses physical exams with the canine handlers.

Categories: Uncategorized

Hockey Hounds!

In the last post we acknowledged that dogs do indeed play sports, but apparently some dogs are big sports fans as well! Last Saturday, 842 dogs cheered… actually, barked… as the San Antonio Rampage skated their way to victory during “Pucks and Paws Night” (5-1 against the Peoria Rivermen). Apparently the dogs also enthusiastically joined in the singing of the national anthem!

Officials for the San Antonio Rampage attempted to enter the Guinness Book of World Records by having the most dogs at a sporting event (600 was the number to beat). Five dollars from every dog ticket was given to the Alamo Area Partners for Animal Welfare (AAPAW). In addition, 25 dogs were adopted during the game!

That’s what I call a win-win!

Here’s a video from a “Pucks and Paws Night” several years ago:
(Sorry about the link to YouTube – can’t figure out how to embed the video here.)

Pucks and Paws Night – Who Let the Dogs Out?

Categories: Uncategorized

Whaling dogs?

Recently, I was conversing with several acquaintances while wearing a jacket with our VSMR logo. During a lull in the conversation, an older gentleman who had seemed distracted by the logo asked with some incredulity, “Do dogs play sports?!” Perhaps he was trying to envision a beagle catching a baseball or a rottweiler tackling the quarterback!

It occurred to me that there are many people – even dog lovers – who don’t realize the many sports that dogs do play… not to mention the array of jobs that working dogs perform!

I thought I would list all of the different types of dogs, but I quickly realized that dogs play so many roles and I would undoubtedly offend someone by omitting their dog’s very important line of work – or play.

Maybe it’s best to focus on one thing at a time… Dogs have long been used to track other animals, but now they are being used to track whales. Yes, orcas .. ‘killer whales’… in the ocean. Apparently this is not new, but I only recently heard the story of Tucker on NPR. The dogs are trained to identify whale feces by smell, in order to locate them and enable the researchers to study them more effectively.

A whale-sniffing dog … what an invaluable addition to the whale research team!

To hear the story on Tucker, go to NPR’s All Things Considered.

And for more information on the canine training program, visit the University of Washington, Center for Conservation Biology – Conservation Canines.

Categories: Uncategorized
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