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Disaster training for search-and-rescue dogs conducted at Reser Stadium implosion site

The site offered a unique training ground for handlers and their dogs to prepare for disasters.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Many watched as a part of Oregon State University history came down with a bang on Friday: the 67-year-old grandstand on the west end of Reser Stadium was demolished to make way for a multi-million dollar renovation project

What was once an iconic part of the Beavers game-day experience is now a pile of rubble and twisted steel, but it's also a unique opportunity for a canine search-and-rescue disaster training.

"To be able to train on a site like this is able to prepare us for an actual disaster that might happen in any time," said dog trainer Ann Wichmann with Search and Rescue Dogs of United States, who led the event. 

Wichmann gathered dozens of handlers and their canine partners for the occasion. 

"These people are operational search teams they go on searches for dementia patients that are lost, mushroom hunters that are lost," she said.

Team members hid among the rubble at Reser Stadium and the dogs used their senses to find them, simulating a search for survivors in a disaster-type situation. 

Credit: KGW
K9 search & rescue teams poses after training the Reser Stadium demolition site in Corvallis

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"Both the live dogs and the human remains dogs, to be able to use their noses and locate sources — whether it be live or [human remains detection] — is just really unique," said Wichmann. "And it was also good for the handlers, many who've never been exposed to real-world disaster training."

And it was also good for the handlers , many who've never been exposed to real-world disaster training, to practice skills outside their specialty of training in the woods.

“It’s the closest we’ve ever done to a real disaster it gives us a lot of little things to think about and work on," said Bonnie Jones standing with her K9 partner Sarah "the amount of sheet metal screws you see when you’re out there and broken glass is just not something that I thought about when we were getting ready for this training.

For Bonnie, Sarah and the other trainees working through the rubble and concrete, strengthens skills and the bond between k9 and handler. "I love working with the dogs because they get so many senses that we don't have" said Wichmann " and they are willing to share those with us and partner with us so it’s really an honor."

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