Animal Helpers

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Next in our series of Girl Led meetings was Animal Helpers.  Cadettes CW and RP lead this series of meetings.  They planned meetings that showed their troop mates how animals have always provided humans companionship, joy and transportation, but they’re also trained to help people with disabilities and find people who are lost.

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For their first meeting, they invited members from the Mesa County Search and Rescue Ground Team.    According to their website,  the Mesa County Search and Rescue Ground Team is a highly trained nonprofit professional rescue organization comprised of over 40 skilled VOLUNTEERS!  They are on call 24/7 to support the Sheriff’s Office with any and all search and rescue efforts free of charge.  Their goal is to help out those who are just having a bad day!

The ground team is also capable of deploying and supporting many other resources in the field. These Include, but are not limited to, Advanced Medical Training. Swift-Water Rescue Swimmers, K9 Search Dogs and their Handlers, Technical Rope Rescue Techs, ATV, Boat and Helicopter Specialists and Evidence Search Personnel.

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For this badge, you can guess which came to visit us.  Those AWESOME K9 Search Dogs (oh…and their Handlers, too)!!

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We learned some great information with regards to Search dogs.  Any dog can be trained to search but dogs with a longer snout (usually a larger dog) are better.  A longer snout has more scent receptors…duh!  Large dogs also have longer legs so can cover distance quicker.  These dogs are pets, members of the family like any other pet.  However, when they put on their uniform, they know they are on the job, their focus and demeanor completely changes.

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Hundreds of hours go into training these dogs and it was amazing to watch these dogs in action.  We were able to see two different German Shepherds doing what they do best.  We hid 2 people in different places on campus, and just observed the dogs in action.

One, was trained to catch scent on the air.  So, he would be off a leash when in the field.  He would catch scent and follow the trail ahead of his handler then “check back” with his owner to make sure she could keep up with him, before running back at the scent.  When he found the subject of his mission he would bark in a specific way to tell the handler he was where he was supposed to be.

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The other was trained to catch scent on the ground.  This was more what we all assumed a scent dog was trained to do (imagine a cartoon bloodhound on a leash behind a Sherlock Holmes-esque Detective).  His lead was very long, but the handler never let go.  The team was telling us crazy stories about how the dog literally dragged his handler UP hill, in the rain, while on a mission to find his subject!

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For the second meeting we took a trip to Harmony Acres Equestrian Center.  This is a local non-profit business that uses animals, mainly horses, in human therapies as well as riding lessons and lessons in vaulting.  They also have a competitive team.  Their mission  is to create a safe space where people and horses can thrive!

They have a great collection of horses, all extremely friendly and extremely different from each other.  The girls loved these animals!

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This is Christina.  She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of equine therapy for over ten years now and has witnessed firsthand the miracles that can occur when horses are part of the therapy process. She has focused much of her training and education in learning how to help individuals who have experienced severe trauma, sexual abuse, or are diagnosed with PTSD. In addition to her therapeutic background, she has an undergraduate degree in equestrian science and is skilled in horse training, riding and equestrian vaulting. In addition to therapy, Christina coaches a vaulting team.  Her unique background and experience give her the combination of skills needed to help make Harmony Acres a safe and joyful place for horses and horse-loving humans alike.

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Left is Morgan and right is Trish.

Morgan is a PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. Her horse background began at the racetrack and led her to find a career working with horses. She went to college in Arizona, and graduated with a BS in Biology. Morgan volunteered for many equine assisted therapy programs, and in March of 2013, was accepted into the PATH Approved Training Course at Equest in Wylie Texas, where she  received her certification.  Her goal as a therapeutic riding instructor for Harmony Acres is to enhance peoples lives through their connections with horses. Morgan works very hard to teach to each person’s skill level and to help each rider gain strength, achieve their goals, and of course, have fun!

Trish is an EAGALA (Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning) Certified Equine Specialist that has had a passion for horses since before elementary school. In her early years, she enjoyed trail riding and participating in play-days at the local rodeo arena near her home in Central Texas. She has worked on a ranch in Texas and has volunteered at a Horse Sanctuary that offered a variety of equine assisted therapy programs. Moving to Colorado in 2009, she brought her love of horses and her experience in the mental health field as a Mental Health Aide with her. Trish is dedicated to keeping the horses happy and healthy while assisting in the therapy programs offered at Harmony Acres Equestrian Center.

We took a tour of the stable, the arena and all the outdoor horse pens.

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Here Morgan is showing the girls how someone with limited ability to walk or stand, can still manage to mount a horse. They use ladders, ramps and volunteers to help every variety of rider up onto a horse.  We could tell how proud of their work these ladies are.  Morgan beamed when she explained to the girls how even a 6th grader with Cerebral Palsy can get onto a horse, feel the movement of the horse below them like “legs” and feel like a 6th grader no different than our very own Girl Scouts!

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In addition to the horses, Harmony Acres has some cats, a bunny and these really cute Alpacas (or maybe they were Llamas, can’t ever remember the difference…eeek!)  The small baby came right over to us to check us out.  Mama was quick on the uptake, coming right over to “protect” her baby!

Amazing and inspiring work, by both teams of people!  Thank you to the volunteers of Mesa County Search and Rescue and the ladies at Harmony Acres.  We are truly grateful for your commitment to helping people and to your highly trained animals.  We are also very thankful for their willingness to take time to educate our Girl Scouts!

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What did the girls learn?

Girl Leader CW says, “I liked working on this badge because we got to see how horses help people with disabilities.  I really liked the search and rescue dogs.  I learned that there are two different kids of tracking techniques with dogs (air and ground).  It was fun to see how animals help people.”

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Ba-bye, now!!  🙂

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