It’s a Sunday morning. You’re given a route to walk through the woods, around thirty minutes from WCU. Time passes, maybe an hour, maybe two, and suddenly, one of the K9 Search and Detection Foundation dogs runs up to you.
The dog has successfully located you, which is just one step of its training to become an official search dog.
The K9 Search and Detection Foundation of the Delaware Valley was formed in early 2014 by Craig Snyder. They train dogs at various parts of Chester County.
Volunteers bring their own equipment and are responsible for their own transportation. Many of the members have their own canines. They train the dogs at various places, but try to not overuse locations. They have used the West Chester Fire School.
“Fame Fire Department in West Chester has been extremely supportive of us and allowed us to use their facilities for the occasional meeting and training classes. The County Emergency Services Department and the Chester County Public Service Training Campus in Coatesville has also been extremely supportive of us and has provided use of their facilities for several of our classroom trainings,” Craig Snyder, the founder, said.
It takes about eighteen months to train one of the dogs, so right now the Foundation only has one dog that is officially certified.
If students want to volunteer to lay trails for the K9 Search and Detection Foundation, they can email HCSnyder@verizon.net or K9SarFound@gmail.com.
They can also visit the organization on Facebook at K9 Detection & Search Foundation or go to the website at Delvalsar.com.
Being a trail layer “can be wet, cold, hot, sweaty, dirty, buggy, beautiful, gorgeous, and all of the above,” said Snyder. They train dogs all year, no matter what the weather is (as long as it’s not a state of emergency or a severe lightning hazard).
Volunteers walk a certain route or are sometimes walked out. You just sit and wait to be found. It can take a while or be a very quick process, depending on the canine’s skill. It can be up to two miles, spread across three or four hours.
Volunteer trail layers are typically only asked to work with the dogs a few times. They don’t want the dogs to be overly familiar with you. It’s best for the process if the dogs are able to find anyone – not just people they’ve met and like.
The trail laying process usually starts at 9:00 a.m. and ends around 12 or 1. Now, because of hunting season, their trainings typically take place on Sundays.
This is the second year that the K9 Search and Detection Foundation has sought out volunteers from WCU. Last year, over thirty volunteers from WCU worked with the school.
Theresa Kelly is a fourth-year student majoring in English literature secondary education. She can be reached at TK780615@wcupa.edu.