Would you do your job without getting paid?
In the wake of the disaster in Hawaii, scent detection dog teams from around the country responded to the call for help. Search and Rescue teams who specialize in trailing, live find, water rescue and even recovery all went in the hopes of finding survivors. They all went in with the call for help ringing in their ears, with the unwavering hope of being of service, with the knowledge, deep in the back of their minds, that they may see things they wish they hadn't.
I heard some of the stories that these teams endured. The unbelievable fury of that fire, whipped by hurricane force winds. The Banyan Tree that was scorched but, somehow, survived. All of the people who were displaced or who were searching for their families.
But the one thing detail that really caught my attention was a story of a group of SAR teams who went to work and when they were done, they were paying their dogs for their work. Listen, the dogs love the work, but they also love (and deserve) the reward for a job well done. That reward is play. Whether it be a game of fetch with their favorite ball or bumper, or a rousing game of tug, these dogs deserve to be paid.
In this particular instance, the outcome of the search was not as they had hoped. They had found the human deceased. It seems the family was somehow involved in this mission and found that the dogs "having fun" was disrespectful and they were upset. It was simply a matter of the family not knowing how the dogs worked. I'm not sure if anyone explained it to them. I can empathize with their unhappiness, especially if the dogs were full of joy because they were playing. Whose job was it to educate this grieving family? When I asked this question, no one really had an answer.
This story got me thinking, though. How many people understand that Search and Rescue Dog teams must have this moment of positive reinforcement even during and after catastrophic situations? The dogs don't truly understand the scope of their mission, they just know they have work to do. They also know that once they have successfully completed their work, they get to play. Even during the aftermath of 9/11 - in the haze of disbelief and grief - the dogs were rewarded with play. It's how they know they've done their job. It's how they de-stress. It's how they bond with their human. Let's not discount that part.
If you read this post and have found this to be new information for you, please tell your friends and family and encourage them to tell others. Awareness of this play=pay for these amazing dogs will go a long way!
Also, please remember that these teams are nearly 100% voluntary! That means that they do not get compensated for their time and are serving because they feel the need to answer the call.
I'm even happy to provide you with this graphic to share on your social media, if you see fit.
Feel free to screen shot it, download it, copy and paste... it doesn't matter. What matters is creating the awareness about the incredible things these dogs do and allowing them the time and space to enjoy their reward.
I mean, you wouldn't do your job for free, would you?
Hugs to your dogs!