Kansas K-9 unit participates in Vigilant Guard

The Kansas Search and Rescue Dog Association/Kansas Task Force K-9 Unit participated in the Vigilant Guard training exercise from Aug. 4-7 in Salina.

The unit, which provides canine search and rescue services to local response agencies across Kansas, is a non-profit organization comprised of volunteers who sometimes work up to 40 hours a week to train with dogs.

The dogs participated in a role-playing event designed for them to find disaster victims during Vigilant Guard. The dogs found the victims and barked to alert the handler, and were then rewarded with a few minutes of play time.

"[The dogs] wouldn't do it if they didn't love it," Heather Jones, a handler and training coordinator with the unit, said. "What we ask them to do is hard and it's scary. We fly them in helicopters, put them on ropes, all sorts of crazy stuff. I've been in buildings that are still partially on fire, it's scary. They enjoy getting called out, they get excited. Mostly, they do it for a paycheck, which, for all the dogs here today, is a toy."

Vigilant Guard, hosted by the Kansas National Guard, saw more than 450 participants from Kansas and four other states practice their emergency preparedness skills by responding to simulated natural disasters.