JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Man's best friend will soon be looking out for students, faculty and staff at A State.
Scout is a six-month-old German Shepherd.
She was donated to A State by the Crowley's Ridge German Shepherds of Paragould and is being trained in disaster search and rescue.
Director of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Dr. Brent Cox, said they were thrilled when they first learned of the possibility of Scout.
"When we were first approached with this project," Cox said. "We thought it was just a dream to have a dog at work with us every day. We all love dogs and appreciate the skills they have, the abilities they have that we can't do. They can smell things a human being has no way of ever detecting."
Dr. Cox said as soon as they learned this could really happen, they set to work.
"When we began researching the project," Cox said, "we found there are very few FEMA certified search and rescue dogs for disaster search and rescue in Arkansas. Especially, in our area. So, we were excited to take this on. We started looking at what it would take. We quickly realized this is not a fast process. It's going to be slow and tedious. It's a daily adjustment for us to work in working with her. Getting her trained and through the process. Finding the right people to train with and to mentor us in the right direction."
Scout is currently undergoing basic training at Ridgemark Retrievers in Brookland.
Once complete, this German Shepherd will undergo specialized training with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security K9 Search and Rescue Division.
Cox said he believes Scout will be invaluable to the entire campus.
"Anytime we're able to get tools into the field," Cox said, "that can enhance your ability to rescue someone, find someone, search for people. The faster you can do that the better off it is. One of the things we were looking for with her is not cross training her, but being very specific. It's not cadaver, it's not drugs, it's not bombs. She's specifically for live victims. We want to be able to assist in finding those who are alive after a tornado, earthquake or just go missing and be able to find them quickly. We know that first 24-hour window is that golden window of opportunity if we can find that person quickly we have a much better outcome."
Cox said they began working with Scout very early on.
"We began working hard at the very beginning when we first got her at 8 weeks old," Cox said. "We began bringing her to campus and socializing her and getting her around the students. Making sure she was used to people and other dogs. The response was great. Everybody loves her. She's been all over campus. She's very loved."
Junior Peyton Inman is studying Social Work with a minor in Child Advocacy at A State.
Inman said she thought it was a great idea to have a dog like Scout on campus and ready to go if needed.
"I think she's good to have on campus," Inman said. "In case of an earthquake or an emergency, like a tornado or something like that. I think she's going to play a vital role in an emergency situation. So, I think she's a very good idea and a very good thing to have on campus."
Cox said so far Scout has adjusted very well to her environment.
"She loves the attention," Cox said. "She loves being around the students. At the same token, she has a very high drive. And so, when we put the vest on her and it's time to start working and building her drive up to search for a person, that drive is there and she wants to go, go, go!"
"She's very friendly," Inman said. "She's very sociable. She's very cute. So, I think students are going to enjoy seeing her and I think she's going to enjoy campus."
Cox said they hope to also allow Scout to help the community that surrounds their campus, should the need arise.
"We're hoping she's a resource to the community," Cox said. "That she's for anybody who needs us. We'll go and be able to assist, as well. We not only teach disaster response in emergency management, but we want to give back to that community as well. Being able to have a tool that not every department can have, or can't afford or don't have the time to invest in. Being able to give back to our community that way is an invaluable investment."
Cox said this whole endeavor was made possible by Crowley's Ridge German Shepherds, Southwest Drive Animal Clinic, Orscheln's in Paragould, Ridgemark Retrievers and donations from citizens.
"I think it's awesome," Inman said. "That so many people in the community care about the campus and the students that they want a search and rescue dog on campus. So, it just shows the love and support that Arkansas State has from the community."
There are around 14,000 students on A State's campus and around 1,500 faculty and staff.
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