Search & Rescue

Vegas Baby: Working Dogs in the Heat

My trips to Vegas involve dogs, cement and old buildings. There’s no drinking, no gambling. We load up the car, stay someplace new and search for people on rubble the dogs have never seen. It’s a mini-deployment—good practice in case we are ever called out for a real search and rescue operation.

Sun ShieldThis year, six of us went to Vegas in the summer. We arrived at the rubble site at 8:00 AM. Rook ran over broken asphalt and rectangles of concrete to locate victims. I followed along behind—tried not to trip.

I like the heat and all, but when I sat down in the car at 11:30 because I felt nauseated, the temperature registered 109.

I closed my eyes and listened to Kinsey and Rook pant in their crates. I drank fluids. They lapped water.

Why do I like this? I asked myself. It’s hot, I feel sick, and I’m out here for free.

Did that sound dramatic? Look at the selfie below…

Katrina Vegas

Because I was out there with a bunch of firemen, we had to do one last search. I sucked it up, got Rook out of his crate, and ambled back to the rubble pile.

Rook Vegas

This victim was deep, so there would be less scent. Rook, in better spirits than I, ran up the rubble, circled, and tried to figure out how to pinpoint the scent, how to get as close as he could. Seconds seemed like days as he moved his head up and down, went around again and again. He decided, finally, that there was somebody down there and barked like crazy.

He understood a complicated scent picture. He’ll understand the next one faster, and the next one faster still. The fact that he pinpointed a deep victim for the first time made the heat and the red face and even the nausea worth it.

We headed back to the hotel about 12:30, and I collapsed. The dogs love search trips because they get to work hard in the morning and relax in an air-conditioned hotel room in the afternoon. I love them for the same reasons.

Rook Vegas

Rook Vegas

Tips for keeping dogs cool in the heat:


  • Take enough water so that they can’t possibly drink it all.
  • Watch how they walk. If they start to pop their feet up and down, it’s because the pavement is too hot. Pick them up or find some shade. Dog’s pads can blister from the heat like our skin.
  • Let your dog self regulate. Walk/run/bike with them off lead so they can take a break.
  • Don’t do anything too exciting. Search dogs will retrieve until they collapse, so I don’t throw toys in the heat.
  • If their tongue is hanging out and wider and further than usual, stop and find some shade! Give them lots of water!
  • If they’re penned up outside, buy a plastic kiddy pool, fill it with water and leave it out.
  • Use a reflective surface to keep the dogs cooler in their crates.
  • If you’re hungry and have dogs in the car, find a drive thru! Never leave your dogs in the car when it’s hot. (Everyone knows this, right? And if you’re going through Primm on the way back from Vegas, they have an amazing Greek restaurant with a drive thru. Yum-o!)

More Vegas stories up soon! Kinsey came too! Of course!


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