Hot weather poses challenges for search and rescue K-9 teams - KPTV - FOX 12

Hot weather poses challenges for search and rescue K-9 teams

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Becky Irving (KPTV) Becky Irving (KPTV)
MARION COUNTY, OR (KPTV) -

While some of us stay inside and out of the heat on hot days, some teams have to beat the heat for work.  

FOX 12 caught up a search and rescue K-9 team to learn about the challenges they face on scorchers like Sunday. 

“We currently have two missions going on right now,” said Becky Irving, canine coordinator for Mountain Wave Search and Rescue. “We have a missing hiker up above Bagby Hot Springs that we are working on with canines, and then we are also down in Salem doing a water search, with canines.”

Search and rescue operations don’t stop in the heat, but the hot weather does pose particular challenges for Mountain Wave Search and Rescue teammates Becky Irving and Ava. 

“Scent doesn't stick around as long when it’s hot so we have very short time windows when it gets this hot to work our dogs and be effective,” said Irving. 

Not only can the scent go cold quick, but dogs just can’t handle the heat the way humans do. 

“It’s hot, I mean we were out like this morning’s search, we were out at 7 o’clock in the morning trying to beat the heat, and by 10 o’clock we were sweating,” Irving said. “The dogs were panting and they were done.”

Irving says dogs don’t sweat like humans do, so they are prone to heat exhaustion.

“Anything over 80 degrees is really too hot to be working the canines,” she said. 

For safety, Irving only works Ava during optimum times of the day like dusk and dawn. She also comes to hot weather missions prepared.

“We have cooling vests that we bring for the dogs so that we can get them wet, wrap them up in a cooling vest,” Irving said. “We bring lots of water. We bring little Gatorade packets that we can add for electrolytes not only for ourselves, but for our canines, and then lots of protein. Not only are fluids important, but it’s also important to keep our bodies fueled when it's hot because it takes a lot more energy to cool yourself off.” 

While hot weather doesn’t stop canine teams like Irving and Ava, it does hinder the search effort. 

“It really is, we may only have two or three hours to search in the morning before it gets too hot and then we have to break and wait until dusk ‘til it’s cool enough to go back out there with the dog,” Irving said. 

On typical days, canine searches can go on for longer periods of time. 

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