When we entered the cafe, we did not imagine that we would get to know famous journalist Annette Quinn in such a different role. With a fine sense of humor and great life force, Annette reminded us that dogs are more than pets: some save our lives, they have it in their DNA.
This was the case of Messi, Angel Rodriguez’s rescue dog who already crossed the rainbow bridge: Messi participated in three rescue operations in landslides in our country in an eight-year period.
In this interview, we learn more about K-SAR with Annette, National Secretary and volunteer at the Panamanian Red Cross.
What exactly is K-Sar?
K-SAR, for its acronym Kanine (Canine) Search and Rescue, is the canine unit of the Red Cross is responsible for the search and rescue of human lives in natural disasters: debris, collapsed structures, landslides or victims in open fields caused by accidents or natural disasters. K—SAR functions through certified “pairs” (man or woman and dog).
How does the organization work in Panama?
There are five units within the Red Cross that work from different perspectives. K-SAR is the youngest group, with more than 10 years in the country; it’s headed by Mario Chan Durán, our current National Director.
The K-SAR team is composed of about 20 people, all volunteers. Among these, eight are owner-dog pairings, certified and operative. Three other pairings are in the process of certification.
Does this mean one needs to have a dog to be a K-SAR volunteer?
Wanting to help and having a love for animals is enough. Ideally, a person should arrive at K-SAR without a dog. For a while, you train and see what it takes to become a certified pair with a dog. Once you are ready, you can find a dog, ideally a puppy, with whom you can start training to become a certified pair.
You don’t necessarily need to own a dog to enter Ksar. You can donate time and learn from others’ experience. There are fellow volunteers who don’t have a dog and they are just as important and useful in training and logistical support.
A K-SAR search team is made up of four person-dog duos, who can reduce search time in an area of approximately 2000 square meters to 7 or 10 minutes, depending on the type of terrain and weather conditions.
Rescue dogs: born or made? Nature vs. Nurture?
A rescue dog may be born with disposition or genetic qualities, that one can enhance, awakening and developing the dog’s hunting instincts. From puppyhood, we can know via a test, the Campbell test, if the dog has the genetic predisposition to be a rescuer.
This is done through a program according to the dog’s life stages, to “build” the rescue dog. When the dog reaches puberty (Between 6 and 12 months), the plan is more rigorous. One the dog matures, is when we demand the most. The dog reaches its best state after two years, after which it is read for an international certification that will allow him to be a rescue dog both in Panama and abroad.