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Shannon’s training as a Search and Rescue dog

Shannon was born on August 28th 1995 in Camberley, GB, where she spent the first 8 weeks of her life taken care of by the family Straughair, her mum Kezer and her brothers and sisters.

My previous Irish Setter, Amber (Int. Ch. Coppersheen Alacrity), died suddenly of cancer on September 1st, 1995. Devastated, I phoned Christine Heron of Caskeys Irish Setters. She told me that although she didn’t have any puppies at the time, her dog Caskeys Blarney had sired a litter born just three days ago. The 8 weeks of waiting seemed an age, despite being sent photos and updates of ‘my’ puppy ever so often.

Finally the day arrived for me to fly over from Switzerland and pick up little Shannon. She was a little devil from the very start, fighting mad to get out of her airline transport bag. On board the plane I was allowed to let her out of the bag and hold her on my lap - much to her disgust! How she would have loved to caper down the aisle... Entry into Switzerland was no problem and Shannon happily greeted my husband Thomas as a long lost friend.

From then on Shannon took over our home - and what a terror she was! I had trained Amber for rescue work, now I thought I’d try the same with Shannon. But whereas Amber had been soft and docile, Shannon was wild, vicious (especially to her stuffed penguin) and had a tremenduous will to please (herself!). Unfortunately she hadn’t read the usual books and did not realize that puppies were meant to sleep alot.

However we persevered and after a while Shannon and I came to an agreement: she would do anything for a piece of sausage and a good play  (we’ve got through tons of sausages during the last four years...). She loved playing hide and seek, when Thomas or I (and any unfortunate friends who happened to come our way) would disappear into the woods, into derelict buldings, hide under piles of wood, whatever we could find. She learned to use her little black nose to search for us and was eager for her award. From an early age we got her accustomed to all sorts of noises, to traffic, to trains, to farm animals, cats, rabbits, in general socialised her as much as possible.

By the age of 8 months Shannon’s training started seriously when we joined the Swiss Association for Rescue Dogs (Redog). Here dogs of all breeds are trained for earthquake rescue and area search. The dogs are required to show stamina, be of strong character, unafraid of loud noises, not be worried by smoke,fire, smells, etc. They must have a strong determination to search and have excellent scenting ability. Dog and handler go through a long and intense training period before being assessed and confirmed. Here Shannon had to learn to work her ground systematically, covering larger areas and searching independently while at the same time being guided by myself. Slowly we became a team. In summer 1999 we were assessed and qualified as a search and rescue team.

Shannon’s joy for searching has never left her and when asked to search for one or two hours, even up to four hours - she still keeps going!

In autumn 2000 Shannon's daughter Bramble joined in. However as yet she can't quite make out what the fuss is all about!

 Shannon and Bramble (6mths) ready for training

Oct. 2000