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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Labrador Retriever Hunts People For Fun

November 14th, 2013

Lani_rehabMeet the new face of the College of Veterinary Medicine: Lani McIlroy.

Lani is a seven year old Labrador Retriever with a gentle, quiet personality, whose photo (taken by VTH Associate Director Ron Mandsager) is now featured on the college Facebook page banner. But what makes her a rock star is her ‘job’ with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office – Lani is a Region 3 Search and Rescue Canine.

Dr. Wendy McIlroy is a retired veterinarian who started training Lani when she was 6 months old. “I lived in Kauai and there had just been a big dam break,” says McIlroy. “There was a flood, and some people missing, and they deployed a dog team. I thought that was really cool.” McIlroy had been thinking about getting a dog anyway, and after chatting with the search and rescuers, decided it was something she wanted to pursue. She got Lani and they hit the ground running – literally.

When most people think of search and rescue dogs, they picture Bloodhounds or German Shepherds. But McIlroy says most breeds can do it. “Obviously the brachycephalic dogs with squishy noses don’t work too well but I’ve seen good disaster dogs that are Jack Russell Terriers,” she says. “You have to train the dog that fits your personality. I’m a Lab person. I have friends who have Bloodhounds that are hilarious, and a blast to work with, but I would never own a Bloodhound. It’s not because they aren’t good dogs, it’s just a personal preference.” The one thing a dog needs to be a successful search and rescue dog is a good play drive. “That is what you are looking for,” says McIlroy. “He has to want that toy, and only that toy, and he will not quit until he gets it.”

Lani trains two days a week and attends group training around the state. Sometimes, McIlroy stages an urban search to keep Lani sharp. “I ask a friend to help. I send them three blocks up to sit in a coffee shop and ask Lani to find them. It’s her favorite game – to find people.”

On Lani’s most recent search and rescue mission, she didn’t find the person they were looking for, but she found where they had been. “It turns out they had gotten a ride,” says McIlroy. “Right when we were standing there trying to figure out what to do, the person came back to see what was going on.”

In the last few years, the widespread use of cell phones has affected the outcome of search and rescue missions. “Some of the searches end before they happen,” says McIlroy. “I want to say, ‘Can they please stay hidden for another fifteen minutes so my dog can do her thing?’”

A year ago in September, Lani suffered a torn cruciate ligament in her left knee and had TPLO surgery to stabilize the joint. Now she comes to the VTH once a month for rehab on the underwater treadmill. “It keeps her in good shape and moving the way she should,” says McIlroy. This has enabled Lani to cover the long distances needed for search and rescue. “We very rarely go less than three miles a day, and it’s usually more like five or six. I get nervous if we have to do a search in a place where there are lots of logs to jump over, but she is very careful with herself.”

Lani will soon be mentoring a new puppy named Moira. “They won’t actually work together – that’s only in the movies – but the puppy can learn from her,” says McIlroy. “I’ll take them on little trails and the puppy can follow along. And she can learn basic manners from her. At least that’s the theory.”

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One response to “Labrador Retriever Hunts People For Fun”

  1. Dr. Jennifer Warnock says:

    I loved the article on Lani, and I wanted to send kudos to all the team members who helped make Lani’s recovery possible and supported Dr. McIlroy. Lani had a torn cranial cruicate ligment and a horizonal cleavage tear of the axial medial meniscus, which was treated with arthroscopy and a TPLO. To get Lani and Dr. McIlroy back to finding the lost, Lani had the combined expertise of Small Animal Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, Small Animal Surgery, Anesthesia, Radiology, and Small Animal Nursing:

    Team Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation: Dr. Wendy Baltzer, Sarah Smith, Krystina Fredericksen, Dr. Louisa Ho, and Ashley Hanna ’13 for doing Lani’s rehabilitation and conditioning;

    Team Small Animal Surgery: Surgery technicians Melanie Garrett and April Darby, Bryan Rensema ’13, Dr. Jason Spina my closure specialist, and Shelley Brown and Tammy Gigoux of central sterile;

    Team Anesthesia: Dr. Pam Fulkerson, April Simons, Jen Houston, Andrew McDade ’13, to provide state of the art anesthesia, monitoring, and epidural;

    Team Radiology: Dr. Susanne Stieger- Vanegas and Dr. Sarah Nemanic, and Beki Francis;

    Team ICU and Overnight Wards care: Janice Hutcheson, Brent Sadahiro, Jamie Spaulding, and many members of the class of 2013.

    Good job all!

    Jennifer Warnock DVM PhD DACVS-SA
    Assistant Professor Small Animal Surgery
    Oregon State University

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