Allie gets very excited when her owner brings out the vest because that means she’s going for a ride on a fire truck.
The truck takes Allie — all 10 pounds of her — to fields and woods in Westmoreland County, where she sniffs and runs, looking for people who are lost. Allie’s vest identifies her as a proud member of Youngwood Fire Department K-9 Search & Rescue.
Allie is a miniature long-haired dachshund. Her teammates are German shepherds and other big breeds that are more typically trained for search and rescue.
“The first time we went on a search, I arrived with Allie in my arms and a police officer said, ‘Really?’” owner Monica Galley said with a chuckle.
But when Allie hit the ground running, she held her own with the big dogs. And, with her very short legs, Allie can go where the other dogs can’t — into dense underbrush.
Allie is a very accomplished dog. Her official registered name with the American Kennel Club is Dual Champion Jewels Peridot & Pearls SAR-wilderness.
She’s a champion in the conformation show ring. She earned a field trial champion title in competitions in which rabbits are tracked by dachshunds but are neither caught nor killed by the dogs nor shot by the dog handlers.
The SAR title after Allie’s name comes from the AKC. Requirements for that title include the dog working in at least five searches. Ms. Galley believes that Allie is the only dachshund in the country to earn the AKC’s SAR title. She qualified for wilderness searches. There is a separate title for dogs that search in urban areas.
Allie also earned a certificate from the American Man Trailing Police & Working Dog Association.
If little Allie seems a bit small for search and rescue work, Ms. Galley points out that dachshunds “are big dogs in little bodies” and have been bred for centuries “to hunt all day.”
Originally developed in Germany, the bigger standard dachshunds were bred to hunt badgers. They were bred with long bodies and short legs so they could go underground to chase badgers in their burrows. The smaller miniatures were bred so they could track and chase rabbits and run underground into the smaller rabbit burrows.
Although Allie just celebrated her ninth birthday last week, Ms. Galley says she can still sniff and track all day at field trials. Dogs work for a much shorter time on search and rescue assignments, she said, and Allie never wants to quit when her shift is over.
For Ms. Galley, the road to search and rescue has been long and somewhat convoluted. She’s been breeding and showing dachshunds since 1980 and always thought their very good noses could be put to good use. Then her grandfather developed Alzheimer’s disease and repeatedly wandered away from his house. Each time it took hours to find him. In the late 1990s she started training her dachshunds for tracking at field trials.
“As our skills got better, I contacted local search and rescue groups. They wanted nothing to do with a dachshund,” she said. “I found the Youngwood Fire Department on Facebook, and they told me to bring Allie and they would test her.” Allie passed. Now Ms. Galley is training Ada, 3, to follow in Allie’s paw steps.
Ms. Galley, 58, lives in Hempfield with four female miniature dachshunds, including Arementa, 18, and Adealia, 13, and her only male, Adam, 6. Adam will not be doing search and rescue because “he is lazy and does not have the drive the girls do,” she said.
Ms. Galley works part time as an accountant and bookkeeper “to support my dog habit” and makes and sells dog-themed jewelry on her Pets BeJeweled Facebook page.
Greenfield’s first Puppy Plunge will be next Saturday at the big pool in the Magee Recreation Center, 745 Greenfield Ave., 15217.
The first session is noon-1 p.m. and the second is 1-2 p.m. Cost is $20 for your first dog and $5 for each additional dog. You can bring up to three dogs, but your “party” must have one human for each canine. Admission is $1 for spectators.
People can register at the event but must bring proof of up-to-date vaccinations. You can register in advance at the rec center or at the Greenfield Veterinary hospital on Greenfield Avenue or by calling 412-422-6546.
Ferdinand, one of the senior ambassadors at Senior Pet and Animal Rescue, is turning 10 years old and is inviting everyone to his birthday party at 2 p.m. Aug. 30 in the Overlook Shelter in Schenley Park. Well-behaved, friendly, leashed dogs are welcome, and there will be activities for children, raffles, merchandise and free doggy ice cream from the Petagogy dog supply shop.
Admission is free, but donations are encouraged for the rescue group and Ferdinand’s Fund, which helps owners of senior pets get the medical and financial assistance they need to keep their pets. Donations can be made to www.seniorpetandanimalrescue.org or the Facebook page.
Cat lovers pitched in to help the overpopulation problem at Animal Friends. From Aug. 8 to 16, when the deal was buy-one-get-one-free, 27 adult cats and 43 kittens were adopted. In the same nine days last year, five adults and 25 kittens went to new homes.
But there were still 182 cats in the Ohio Township shelter earlier this week, so the twofer offer is extended through Aug. 31. And here’s a new offer: If you take home just one cat, the adoption fee will be half off.
The usual fee is $100 for kittens and $75 for cats 6 months and older. Go to www.thinkingoutsidethecage.org or call 412-847-7000.
New shelter plans
The Washington Area Humane Society has been in North Strabane for more than 50 years, and the board has decided it’s time to raise money for a new building.
The Capital Campaign kicks off with a goal of $5 million. A bigger building is needed, and the current one has required many expensive repairs in recent years, including a leaking roof and plumbing problems.
Russ Rosendale, WAHS board president, expects ground will be broken in spring 2016. The shelter takes in thousands of animals and investigates 1,000 abuse cases each year. To donate or become involved in the campaign, contact Lynette Vybiral, director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-222-7387.
Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064 or on Facebook.