May 7, 2008 Edition

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Tim Mansfield (left) and Michael Bristow practice with search and recovery dogs, Daisy, Molly, Martha and Edna. The dogs are trained to track missing people
Submitted Photo ~ Ashley Mansfield

Search dogs excel at
Working Dog Seminar

The Lawrence County Search and Recovery Team recently attended the second annual Search and Rescue K9 Working Dog Seminar at the Camp Robinson Wildlife Demonstration Area in Mayflower. Lawrence County's team attended last year and did really well, but this year they excelled in all phases of the event against other advanced teams from all over the U.S.

Charlie Douthett, an instructor at the seminar, who works with the Porter County K9 Unit in Indiana and is considered one of the best trainers/instructors in the United States, told the Lawrence County team their dogs were right where they needed to be. According to the dogs' owners and trainers, that was the highest praise given from the instructor.

"We had the best two dogs there," said Michael Bristow of Lynn, the dog's owner and trainer.

The four-day event included 30 hours of instruction in K9 scent discrimination trailing, scent theory and Alzheimer's disease education. Lawrence County's bloodhounds, Molly and Daisy, are also trained by Tim Mansfield of Lynn. Mansfield's wife, Veronica, helps with the dogs' training, too.

Mansfield and Bristow are both volunteer firemen and first responders with the Lynn Volunteer Fire Department. Bristow is also a reserve deputy for Lawrence County, an EMT and an instructor with the fire department.

The Search and Recovery Team is a part of Lawrence County's Advanced Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERT consists of firemen, policemen, first responders, divers, swift water rescuers, EMTs, HazMat, a level three caver and a pilot.

"We're fortunate to have the Search and Recovery Team," Lawrence County Sheriff Dan Ellison said. "They're a great asset available to us and other rescue teams across the state. They add another dimension to any type of emergency situation we might have.” There are only a handful of teams like this in the entire state.

Bristow said he bought Daisy in 2005 when he and other members of the fire departments saw a need for search dogs.

"I bought Daisy from Rich Allison in Jonesboro," Bristow said. "Allison was halfway through Daisy's training at the time.

Bristow took Daisy home and continued to train her, and Allison helped him by phone. He then bought Molly, and he and Mansfield trained them to work as a team. The dogs are trained not to bark as they trail.

"If they are trailing someone wanted by the police, we don't want the person to know we're coming," Bristow explained.

Bristow has bought two more dogs to add to the team, Martha and Edna, and they are now being trained. Fire department members and family assist the team by leaving a trail and hiding so the dogs can practice tracking them.

"The dogs get tired of hunting the same person all the time, so we appreciate all the help we can get," said Bristow. "Volunteers are welcome."

The dogs are worked twice a week when they begin their training and need to be worked twice a month once they are trained to keep them where they need to be. This team continues to work more often than that.

Mansfield said he likes working with the dogs because he enjoys trying to help someone else, and to find closure for a family who is looking for a missing loved one.

"If they're lost, we want to find them. If they're running, we want to catch them," Bristow said of the people they search for.

The team has conducted searches in Petit Jean, Marshall, Perryville and in Lawrence, Randolph and Sharp counties.

Bristow and Mansfield are fortunate to have employers who allow them to use vacation days or just take time off when they are called to assist in searches. They do not charge families or law enforcement agencies for their services. All the team's expenses, including everything from dog food to travel expenses for a search, are paid by Bristow and Mansfield.

"The full extent of a bloodhound's capabilities is not yet known," Mansfield said. "We've spent a lot of hours and gone a lot of miles with these dogs." The dogs and men are still learning new things together.

The men are very proud of their dogs and the work they do.

"When the dogs are young, they work for treats,' Bristow said. "When they're older they work for praise from us."

No doubt, these dogs get plenty of that from the two men who have trained them.

Anyone who would like to make a donation to help support the team can mail it to: Lawrence County Search and Recovery Team, c/o Mike Bristow, P.O. Box 141, Lynn, AR 72440.

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