AMES, Iowa — A Paws of Life Foundation search and rescue dog recently was certified with her handler, 16-year-old Taylor Lane of Mesa, Arizona. Lane seems unaffected by how impressive her achievements really are. The daughter of Dallas and Sandy Lane juggles a hectic high school schedule including playing soccer, participating in band, and volunteering in search and rescue operations in Pinal County as a member of Sonoran Search and Rescue. Lane says that she became interested in search and rescue as a result of her father’s work as a firefighter and arson investigator, her mother’s work as a ranger, and her older brother’s involvement with the Civil Air Patrol. “This is just what our family does,” comments Lane.
However, being a teen search and rescue volunteer and one of the approximately two dozen members of Sonoran Search and Rescue was only the beginning for Lane. After completing her ground searcher certification, Lane submitted an application to the Paws of Life Foundation’s program to pair canine handlers with dogs. After being selected, Paws of Life Executive Director Robin Habeger informed Lane that she had been paired with a Border collie mix.
In July 2007, Lane’s hectic schedule then included training the dog she named Firecracker after one of the canine heroes from the Vietnam War. Firecracker’s name has now been shortened to Cracker. “Everyone loves to play with her because she talks to you and makes noises.” Lane says about Cracker. “She absolutely lives to play tug.”
Lane remained active in Sonoran Search and Rescue with calls concerning lost hikers, missing elderly individuals, and cadaver calls to help locate bodies while training her dog. Additionally, Sonoran Search and Rescue held regular training meetings on Wednesday nights during this time. “Thursday was the hardest to get up for school when our trainings were on Wednesday,” Lane stated.
Lane and Cracker reached the top level of canine search certification in December of 2008 by passing NASAR’s Canine Sartech I evaluation. This extensive test required Lane and Cracker to complete a day search with two subjects within a 140 to 160 acre area within four hours. The second component involved a night search for one individual in an 80 acre search area.
Not surprisingly, Lane has still a few more goals for herself and Cracker. Lane has already begun working with Cracker in locating deceased persons.
A hiker who became injured while at the Picacho Peak State Park recently sent a letter commending the search and rescue volunteers who assisted her. She thanked the entire Sonoran Search and Rescue group as well as the park rangers who came to her aid.
She commented, “I would like to commend the work of the Sonoran Search and Rescue group. Their equipment, labor, and dedication brought sanity to an incredibly frightening event.” She later spoke about Lane describing her as a “sixteen year old young woman with the presence and composure of a thirty year old.”
Lane’s parents acknowledge that they are proud of her accomplishments and her desire to be involved in search and rescue. Her father commented that Taylor worked exceptionally hard for a year training Cracker and is continuing to do so.
According to Dallas Lane, “Demands on our youth today are minimal. Our expectations for how they conduct themselves is not high. Therefore, when you have a teen like Taylor that functions and succeeds in an adult manner, unfortunately it’s unique. I wish it wasn’t,” he continued.
Unique does describe this Arizona teen. Lane has already accomplished a variety of certifications that few adults have successfully completed. Lane is a positive role model for all youth today. Lane embodies all the traits of a true hero. She is hard working, modest, dedicated to helping others, and determined to keep doing what her family does which is help others through search and rescue operations. Lane and Cracker are only beginning their journey to make a difference in the world.
About Paws of Life:
The Paws of Life Foundation is a national nonprofit organization made up of experienced search and rescue individuals that work to support search and rescue groups across the nation through training, education, identifying canine candidates, and matching approved handlers and canines for search and rescue applications. The foundation’s experienced handlers and trainers have developed a thorough evaluation that identifies and targets potential canine candidates. Once the dogs are targeted, then Paws of Life matches the canine candidate with an approved handler.
You can learn more at www.pawsoflife.org.