Posted: Thursday, May 7th, 2009 in The Brookings Register Eric Peterson of Brookings is a rescuer times two. First, he rescued Eve, a 2-year-old American Pit Bull Terrier. Now, with a demanding training regimen behind them, he's ready to undertake some search-and-rescue missions - with a lot of help from his pawed pal and partner.
Eve is now qualified in "tracking and trailing ." She and Peterson are part of the Brookings County Sheriff's Department K-9 Search and Rescue program.
A scenario for her and Peterson might be a situation where a nursing-home resident suffering from dementia wanders off or a child wanders away from home and becomes lost. A "tracking dog" follows a subject's footsteps, being oriented to a mixture of human scent and ground disturbance where the subject walked; a "trailing dog" is oriented to the cells that people are always shedding, which would happen as the subject walked along the ground. Eve can find a subject using either or both methods. Other search dogs work with orientation driven by an airborne human scent. And, finally, some search dogs are trained to find human remains.
Should the call for the services of Eve and Peterson come, they're ready to respond. Defending, rescuing dogs like Eve Peterson, manager of Powershop Gym in downtown Brookings, defends dogs like Eve, whom he got via "Pit Rescue of the Great Plains," based in Sioux Falls, for which he serves as board secretary and Web master.
He likes to clarify the definition "pit bull" ; he calls it a "slang term." It's a more generic term that covers a wide variety of canine types with similar physical characteristics. In the United States, dogs like Eve are likely to be American Pit Bull terriers or American Staffordshire terriers. Peterson said the two breeds are cousins. He explained, "We basically rescue American Pit Bull terriers in need, usually from shelters. We don't take owner surrenders."
But while there have long been organizations dedicated to rescuing a wide variety of dog breeds, adopting dogs like Eve just recently caught on. Peterson explained, "Unfortunately , up until a few years ago, the Sioux Falls Humane Society would not adopt out American Pit Bull terriers. There's too much of a stigma and negative media publicity from people who either didn't socialize their dogs or kept them for the wrong reasons or treated them wrongly. There's a lot of shelters that will just put them down. "No questions asked, no matter what. It could be the greatest dog in the world, but they just put them down if they suspect that they're an American Pit Bull Terrier."
For Peterson, it's his "breed of choice." But Eve won't be providing any additions to his breed of choice: she has been spayed. "Absolutely ," he said. "Everyone should spay or neuter their dogs."
A key reason for his selection of Eve was his own personality and lifestyle. "I am an athletic person; I like to be active," said Peterson, whose life work is helping people get fit. "I wanted an intelligent , smart, athletic breed."
He's also practical: "I'm not a huge fan of long-coated dogs. So the nice, short coat is a good option. And small size; 60 pounds should be breed-standard max." Eve weighs in at 57 pounds and is "in summer shape." Finally, she is "very intelligent," willing to work for her owner-partner , and "very trainable" - in a wide range disciplines.
He and his wife, Stephanie, adopted Eve when she was 15 weeks old and "very much a puppy." So he's had plenty of time to train her. And he'll keep training her. He says a big responsibility for owners of dogs like Eve is ensuring that their dogs develop social skills. Peterson explained, "They're very, very social dogs. These dogs absolutely need to be in a house with a family. If they don't have social contact, they will not be happy. And if they're not happy, they can have issues."
And those issues, some of which can lead to bad press, Peterson blames on the owners: "Stupid people make stupid owners make stupid dogs." Eve: a 'good citizen' Eve has been through such classes as agility, obedience, manners, outdoor activities , and "K-9 Good Citizen" training, which is affiliated with the American Kennel Club.
Peterson believes that dogs like Eve always "need a good outlet of energy. Dogs are happy when they're tired." Recognizing that need for an energy outlet for Eve, Peterson saw the next step was a program where he and she "could train all the time." That led to search-and-rescue training, via the Brookings County Search and Rescue K-9 program; it offers "training all the time and constant challenges, new terrain, new scenery, trails that are never the same - whatever you want to make of it."
Peterson equates the rescue work he will do with Eve to service as a volunteer firefighter, which he considered. But, he explained, "I have her; why not involve something with her, that we can do together, productive, give back to the community."
So while Eve was earning her tracking and trailing skills, he was training to be a "Ground Pounder." That involved basic training in grid-searching techniques, clue awareness, basic tracking, knot tying and compass and topography map-reading. Add crime scene preservation training with a deputy from the Brookings County Sheriff's Department.
Now Eve and Eric are ready to "give back to the community." Smiling, he summed it all up, saying, "She was rescued; now she's ready for rescuing others."
John Kubal may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.