Monday, September 13, 1999

By Anthony Sommer, Star-Bulletin
Laura Rathe of the California Rescue Dog Association
came to Kauai to audition local pets as candidates for
rescue dog training. More than two dozen dogs and
their owners showed up.

Garden Isle
looks to recruit a
few good dogs

No public safety agency
on Kauai has dogs trained
for rescue operations

By Anthony Sommer
Kauai correspondent


LIHUE -- There were lots of Labradors, three bouviers, two German shepherds, two boxers, a Doberman pinscher, a Rottweiler and, of course, a poodle.

Amazingly, on an island where they appear to be the official dog, not a single Chihuahua was anywhere in sight.

It was rescue dog tryout night recently in the grassy field behind Kmart, and it went like this:

Ricko Taniguchi, president of Kauai Dog Fanciers and organizer of the event, would run and hide behind a berm. Laura Rathe of the California Rescue Dog Association would turn the wanna-be rescue dog loose, and it either did or didn't find Taniguchi.

The tryouts worked both ways. Rathe, who will set up the training, was there to check the dogs, and the dog owners were there to figure out whether they want to spend three nights a week for the next two years doing this.

North Shore veterinarian Ihor Basko's Doberman did just fine, but Basko himself had some doubts about the time commitment.

On the other hand, he noted, "The dog could stand some excitement." He's usually found lounging around Basko's rural Kilauea office, rousing himself only to chase the odd pickup truck that happens by.

"Your dog has to find somebody, come back and tell you, and take you to the victim," Rathe told the owners. "It's not an easy thing for a dog to learn."

One reason there are so many training sessions is that a dog is good for only about three practice searches in an evening before losing interest, she added.

Deputy police Chief Paul Hurley was on hand along with two officers who want to become involved with the training. None of the public safety agencies on Kauai has any trained dogs.

Hurley looked at the pack of purebreds who showed up and wondered aloud whether some breeds "would do very well in the Alakai Swamp."

He said some of the scruffy but tough mongrel dogs used by local pig hunters might be better suited to the task, noting the death by heat exhaustion of a state Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement dog used to hunt for a lost hiker last spring. The hiker later was found dead, apparently from a fall.

"We have some very rugged terrain on this island," he said.

Taniguchi was thrilled with the turnout. She said she expected about six dogs to show, and about 25 tried out.

The real test of owner interest, she said, will come when when the first training session takes place.

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