Sankt Augustin The Johanniter rescue dog team has been helping with search missions in the Rhein-Sieg district since 2004 and now has a new leader.
Helping where help is needed - this is the special voluntary work to which the helpers of Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe have committed themselves. The volunteers in the Bonn/Rhein-Sieg/Euskirchen regional association receive active support on four paws: Since 2004, Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe has maintained its own rescue dog team. Johanniter rescue dogs are also used in the region when people are in need and at the same time untraceable, when people are in shock and lost after accidents or disasters, or when people with dementia disappear from their homes. And this is literally around the clock, explains Ralf Lambrecht, who took over the leadership of the squadron from Günther Dahl in September.
On Wednesday evenings, dog and man train in cooperation alternately in search and subordination training. On Saturdays, the training starts with the search for pockets in extensive areas. "Working with the dog is always time-consuming. You don't get anything for free", explains the head of the rescue dog squadron, who himself does not currently have a rescue dog: "Unfortunately my Pocketbeagle is too old for the demanding work as a rescue dog. But Sidney, a Croatian shepherd dog owned by Lambrecht's wife and rescue dog trainer Helga Lambrecht, is allowed to show what he can do.
Search for mushroom picker a fortnight ago
Currently, the squadron consists of four tested dogs, one trial member and 15 active members, who literally spend a lot of time together with training and missions, says Christoph Bartz, Head of the Civil Protection Department in the Regional Association of Johanniter: "The rescue dog squadron is the unit that really has the closest contact to each other. People and dogs must therefore be well matched to each other, so that everything runs smoothly during the long training periods and also during operations".
As (for) an example in the district of Euskirchen a good a fortnight ago. "A mushroom picker, who was a well-known diabetic, had gone into the forest on Saturday and never came back," reports department head Christoph Bartz from the field: "The person was found and cared for during the search mission." Since every search mission is different, Johanniter not only trains its helpers on dogs, but also on how to use maps, compass and GPS, radio communication with police, fire brigade and ambulance, extended first aid and special, psychologically stressful situations.
Team spirit is important
"It is important for us to resolve the situation by either ending the search with good news or, where that is not possible, by allowing mourning to take place," says Ralf Lambrecht, reporting on stressful situations such as the search for people for whom suicide cannot be ruled out at the beginning of the mission. Here, too, the cohesion of the team, which debriefs every mission, helps, says the squadron leader. "We have classic area search dogs that can differentiate between a walker and a person who is in shock or in need. But we don't have cadaver dogs or mantrailer dogs that can be trained to search for a specific person by clothing, which is why we are not called out for such missions. We also stay away from debris.
It is a task with demands and fulfilment at the same time, Ralf Lambrecht sums up: "It is more than just a compensation from my job, in which I have to do a lot of mental work. Working with the dog is fun and the feeling of being able to help other people in an emergency situation is indescribable".
CALL-OUTS - Control centres request rescue dog team
About 20 times a year the rescue dog handlers of the Johanniter Bonn/Rhein-Sieg/Euskirchen are called into action by the fire and rescue control centre of the Rhein-Sieg district or the police control centre. Using radio and mobile phones, they coordinate their way to the meeting point at the Johanniter office in the Menden industrial estate, where two emergency vehicles and a trailer are equipped with technology and where people and dogs prepare for the operation.
Original text: Thomas Heinemann
Translation: Mareike Graepel