JOHNSBURG - Students at Johnsburg Central School recently took a break from their end-of-the-year preparations to spend some time with German Shepards Cash and Inca, search and rescue dogs from the Champlain Valley Search and Rescue K9 Unit.
The dogs, along with their handlers Christopher Bressett and Patty Warrington and Champlain Valley Search and Rescue members Lizbeth and Robert Ordway met with Susanne Hayden's fifth grade students. Aside from meeting the dogs, students were familiarized with wilderness tips from Bressett, team leader.
"It always surprises me how much students in this area already know," he said. "They grew up around wilderness and safety almost comes naturally to them."
The Champlain Valley K9 Unit is a non-profit team which specializes in training dogs and support personnel to search for and rescue lost or missing persons within a 100-mile radius of Keeseville, NY.
"As an active K9 team we are specifically trained to assist with land and water searches, as well as natural or man-made disasters in which people may be trapped or missing," Bressett said.
Champlain Valley K9 also has made a strong commitment to community service in the way of education and helping youths gain necessary confidence and leadership skills.
"Our goal is to educate both parents and students in order to get them involved in a lot of what we do," said Warrington.
Warrington is a German Shepard breeder in Olmstedville and plays the role of obedience trainer for Champlain Valley K9 Unit. The unit has been visiting local schools with their dogs for the past three years.
Currently, the K9 unit consists of 12 members and eight dogs. All members are volunteers and dedicate countless hours to the unit on top of their full-time jobs.
"The group's volunteers give up everything to help and to train the dogs," said Lizbeth Orway. "It really is a thankless job."
Lizbeth and Robert Ordway of Olmstedville have become increasingly involved in the K9 unit. Robert is in training to become a handler.
Hayden's students were sorry to see Cash and Inca leave at the end of their day and Johnsburg Central School hopes to welcome them back soon to share some of their safety tips with more students.
For more information on the Champlain Valley k9 Unit or to find information on getting involved, visit www.champlainvalleyk9unit.com.