Jean Musgjerd, health and physical education teacher at Rochester Community and Technical College, first was inspired to get involved in K9 rescue in 1999 by a student who encouraged her to join as a volunteer. “I got my first K9, a German Shepherd named Sabala.”
Now Jean has two dogs certified in K9 rescue, Chili and Chulu. She also has a young dog, Chevy—the sixth dog she’s training in K9 rescue.
Why Musgjerd serves in K rescue
Jean says of volunteering with K9 rescue, “The best part is working with my dogs and doing what they love to do and are bred to do.” Jean is a volunteer in the nonprofit organization Minnesota–Wisconsin K9 Search and Rescue. She notes that the search and rescue unit has had German Shepherds, Labrador retrievers, German shorthairs and other working dog breeds. “We take their drive and turn it into finding a person. . . . It’s like a big game of hide and seek, and then they get their reward.” The reward, she says, is a toy or food for the dogs.
“It’s magical and a gift to communicate with dogs and ask them to do something,” shares Jean. “Dogs have incredible noses. Our K9s are taught to communicate what they find. They search for an odor we ask them to find.”
She goes on to say of her volunteer service, “I have a passion to help people and give back to the community. My dad instilled in me the idea of volunteering and giving back to the community.”
How people and dogs get involved in K rescue
Jean and her K9 search and rescue unit of seven people and their dogs meet and train once a week in southeast Minnesota or in Wisconsin. She mentions they ask for volunteers to hide so the dogs can practice finding them. Jean says they’re always looking for volunteers to hide.
“We all own our own K9s. We get them as puppies and then train them,” she explains. The dogs can provide 10 to 12 years of service. Jean explains it’s also important for owners to keep them in shape.
Jean notes that she does training during the week too, including working with the dogs at home. She also works on her own skills, such as navigation and first aid.
Jean explains how a K9 search and rescue begins. “We get called by law enforcement. We’re one of the resources used to search for a missing person.” As the Minnesota–Wisconsin K9 Search and Rescue website states, they provide free search services that can include recovery of lost people or items during a wilderness, water disaster, or urban search and rescue request.
Challenges of K search and rescue
A challenge of K9 search and rescue, Jean says, is looking for someone’s loved one. “Carrying that mission can be heavy,” she explains. “We try to bring that loved one home.”
She continues, “If someone is deceased, it’s difficult. It’s a reality of what we do that can be a hard part when we’re not able to bring a person home alive or not find them.”
A search and rescue mission can take days. “We have to be prepared for anything,” Jean says. She says her “go bag” is always in her car. Jean explains the search and rescue unit also must be self-sustaining when on a mission. For example, they must know first aid for people and dogs and how not to get lost.
The mission, as the website states, to provide trained K9 teams to assist law enforcement in finding missing people, continues up to 24 hours a day. ::
:: get connected
For more information about Minnesota–Wisconsin K9 Search and Rescue:
Facebook: Minnesota-Wisconsin K9 Search and Rescue