North Country Rescue Dogs

An interview with Kathryn Bamford

Kathryn Bamford
Kathryn Bamford, SAR K9 Instructor

Kathryn Bamford is the New York State Federation of Search and Rescue Teams K9 coordinator, Massasauga SAR Team K9 officer, and an International Police Work Dog Association SAR instructor.

She was interviewed by Greg Hitchcock of Only the Adirondacks about what makes a perfect search and rescue dog.

GREG: How do you train dogs for rescue missions?


BAMFORD: This is a question that could be answered over a period of weeks to months.  It all depends on the discipline the dog is trained for, i.e., live find wilderness, human remains detection, avalanche, disaster, etc.  A simple answer is that the dog’s drive/motivation to hunt is turned into a game where if the dog finds the object of the search it is rewarded with toy, play and/or food.  The dog always works to gain a high value reward.


GREG: What type of rescues do your dogs go on? Search and Rescue (SAR)? Can you give me an example of a dog employed for SAR?


A Search and Rescue Dog
A Search and Rescue dog at work.

BAMFORD: Search and Rescue dogs search for lost and missing persons.  This can be in all types of environments, e.g. wilderness, water, mountain snows, natural or manmade disaster areas, urban locations, buildings etc.


GREG: Are these trained dogs employed elsewhere besides SAR?


BAMFORD: Most Search & Rescue K9s are dedicated to that work only.  Some law enforcement agencies may use their patrol dogs for SAR missions, but this is very limited because most patrol K9s are trained in bite apprehension.


GREG: What breed of dog is ideal for this type of work? What are their characteristics? Cool under pressure? Good tracking skills?


BAMFORD: Search dogs are chosen for their desire to hunt, agility, strength, ability to work in all weather and seasons, trainability and even temperaments.  Many of the hunting breeds, herding breeds and hounds make good search dogs.  This can vary and the breeding lines of these dogs are very important.  Successful search dogs are from lines bred to work and not those bred to be house pets.

A Search and Rescue dog
A search and rescue dog gets a lift.


GREG: How does it work? Do you contract with state and local police and law enforcement agencies to provide SAR?


BAMFORD: As I mentioned previously, SAR K9 units are specialty resources of volunteer SAR teams.  All work is performed on a volunteer basis.


GREG: Are volunteers critical in operations? How so?


BAMFORD: We are all volunteers.  The majority of search dogs in this country are trained and handled by volunteers.

This interview is a two-part series about dogs of the North Country. 

A man’s best friend is his dog

Snoopy and Charlie Brown looking at a sunset.
Snoopy and Charlie Brown looking at a sunset.

Happiness is a warm puppy.
Charles M. Schulz

When I was a child, I remember my first dog. It was a Dalmatian mix with the cutest disposition. I loved that dog. So, when I heard it escaped its leash and got hit by a passing motorist, naturally I felt a tug on my heart. My cherished dog was gone.

Why do we love our dogs? Simple. Dogs are family. When we lose one to an accident, illness, or just old age, we lose a loved one.

According to Live Science, humans and dogs have been in a close relationship for thousands of years. Dogs and people have been buried together as early as 14,000 years ago.

Dogs give us so much, including:

  • Companionship
  • An exercise buddy
  • Stress relief
  • Protection

A dog asks for nothing except our love. When we care for our dogs, they care for us. But, expect plenty of ‘whiskers’, i.e. face licks, in return.

Comments are appreciated.

Greg Hitchcock
Gloversville, NY
Oct. 27, 2016





A Walk Through the Woods is all you need

I remember the woods we walked in as children. It was a magical place full of life. I never had to look further than my backyard to marvel at the colors of the changing leaves in fall or in collecting pollywogs.

The birds were singing, and the breeze was gently blowing through the trees. There is nothing quite like nature especially for children. Even as adults, we feel the sensation of being young again gazing at the natural world with wonder.

Lord Byron said,

There is pleasure in
the pathless woods,
There is rapture in
the lonely shore,
There is Society where
none intrudes,
By the deep sea,
And music in its roar;
I love not Man less,
But nature more.

The fast pace of a constantly changing world seems to mock the serenity of a walk in the woods. We seem to be on our mobile technology more than we are looking at a sunset; we seem to be overloaded with information that a flower or leaf in our path seems hardly noticeable to us in the 21st century.

A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that people ages 8 to 18 spent an average of 7½ hours a day on digital media. Last month, a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that three times as many Millennials — born in the 1980s and ’90s — as Baby Boomers said they made no personal effort to help the environment.

According to EcoWatch, being in nature has many advantages:

  • Time slows down – Nature has a natural rhythm, one without clocks and deadlines.
  • Nature reminds you of death so you can appreciate your life and its natural cycles
  • You behold the beauty of nature
  • You remember who you truly are
  • You experience the Divine

And many more positive advantages!

So the next time you drive through the woods to your grandmothers house texting as you go, take the time to step outside and smell the flowers. You’ll appreciate nature and yourself more.

Greg Hitchcock
Gloversville, NY
Oct. 24, 2016