County rescue dog undergoes training for Task Force One

Monday, October 13, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:03 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

There are dogs who look out for people, and then there’s Cal. Cal, a hard-working Belgian Malinois, is in the process of becoming certified to join Missouri’s Task Force One team in Boone County. Once part of the team, he will risk life and paw to save complete strangers.

Cal, short for Calvary, got his name from Calvary Episcopal Church, which held its 13th annual horse show this weekend at the Midway Exposition Center in Columbia. Money raised from this year’s show will help cover the purchase and training of Cal, who arrived in Columbia in late June.

The horse show raises money for organizations that “seem to be doing good things” said Lenard Davenport, who has coordinated the show for the past five years. In addition to Task Force One, this year’s show raised money for Central Missouri Food Bank and Heifer Project International.

“We approached Task Force One and asked if there was some way we could help with their dog program,” said Janet Thompson of Calvary Episcopal Church.

Missouri Task Force One responded by applying for a $10,000 grant to cover Cal’s purchase and training expenses for one year.

Fully trained rescue dogs can be as expensive as $20,000.

Thompson said most of the money raised during the show comes from donations, and a small amount comes from entry fees.

More than 300 horses attended this year, which was about 30 more than last year. Last year’s show raised more than $12,000. Show organizers have yet to tally how much money was raised this year.

The church found out about the Missouri Task Force’s dog program after the Sept. 11 attacks, when Cathy Schiltz, canine search specialist, went to New York with Hawk, her Australian shepherd.

Hawk is an advanced Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified dog. Schiltz said dogs like Hawk are important to rescue missions because they can go places humans can’t, help locate victims trapped in the rubble and show human rescuers where victims are.

“We saw her on the news and found out from her that there was a great need for dogs around the country that are trained at that level,” Thompson said.

There are about 120 certified dogs in the country, only a third of the number needed for the 28 FEMA teams nationwide.

“Most of the dog handlers are volunteers,” Schiltz said.

Hawk recently retired, and Schiltz purchased another dog, Malachi, from Holland. The Belgian Malinois was 14 months old at the time. He went through intense training with Schiltz and is now an advanced FEMA-certified rescue dog.

“Because of the fact that Malachi had done so well and progressed so well, we decided we would purchase a dog, I would train it and Missouri Task Force One would own it,” Schiltz said.

She is now working with Cal six or seven days a week so he can obtain his basic FEMA certification in April.

The Task Force, which should have 12 dogs, has only four FEMA-certified dogs. About eight dogs are in training with the unit.

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