Cali the K9 takes us through a SAR training session

Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 10:40 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -

Cali the K9 has a nose for sniffing out lost loved ones. When her handler Peggy Jo Wilson slips on Cali’s vest she knows it’s time to work.

“She’s been about I want to say almost 9 years as a search K-9,” said Wilson “She’s now 11. She’s had a very successful career.”

While she is part of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue or SAR team, Cali’s expertise is in what’s called HRD.

“In this particular case Cali is a Human remains detection dog,” said Wilson.

Training is vital to keep Cali’s skills on point.

“We train in buildings, vehicles, different kinds of elements just to get them used to any kind of environment that they might be working in,” said Wilson.

“Typically when we get on a scene of wherever we’re going to search we get them acclimated, get them plenty hydrated, give them time to exercise, and when we give them their command that’s when they go to work to find whatever they’re looking for.”

The command Wilson gives to Cali is “Ready? Go find friend.”

“Dogs are amazing. Their heightened sense of smell is far superior to what humans are. So they’re able to solve a lot more cases than humans ever would,” said Wilson. “They can smell below the ground, and they can sense stuff that humans just won’t be able to. It’s absolutely amazing.”

Wilson acquires the sources for Cali’s training while at seminars with other SAR teams.

“We train on blood, tissue, bone, whichever is available to the handlers that we acquire over time.”

All samples were donated to science.

Most SAR teams are completely volunteer.

“Even if you don’t have a K-9, volunteer for search,” said Wilson. “I worked grounds team prior to working K9 myself and it was great because you learn the fundamentals of the search too. There’s a big, big demand for search and rescue and there’s only a handful of us volunteers here in the Panhandle.”

a lot of the volunteers are retired law enforcement, military or civilians.

In case you’re wondering no dog breed is better than another when it comes to tracking.

“We’ve seen little dogs to very large breed dogs do search and rescue.”

Cali and Wilson are a great team that has brought closure to a lot of families.

“After they find the source, then I let them play because it’s a big fun game to them,” said Wilson.

“Alli K9′s work very hard for tennis balls and treats.”

Cali is nearing retirement age.

“Some K9′s can work until 12 or 13 years of age,” said Wilson. “Just really depends on the K-9 and the handler too how long they want to.”

Wilson also said when she’s not working Cali is just a couch potato who likes to watch TV and cuddle.

To learn more about how to volunteer log onto https://baysosar.org/

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