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Service-Dog-in-Training Elsa Makes Her “On-the-Road” Debut as She Joins the SEARCH High-Tech Crime Training Team This Spring

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Six Quick Elsa Facts:

  • She has her own Instagram feed!
  • She comes from a litter that were all given names starting with “E”—Elmer, Ember, etc.
  • Her parents are Moxie and Lincecum (named after the former San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum; the Giants are big supporters of CCI)
  • The hardest thing to teach her is not to lick people
  • She practices her commands 90 minutes per day
  • She is pampered: coat brushed daily, nails cut twice a week, teeth brushed every other day

SEARCH’s High-Tech Crime Training Services team—which develops and provides training and workshops to law enforcement and justice investigators across the country, as well as a wide range of investigative resources and tools—is heading to the 33rd International Symposium on Child Abuse in Huntsville, Alabama the week of March 27, 2017.

It’s the first in a string of national and regional conferences and summits this spring and summer at which the SEARCH team is scheduled to provide training (see Calendar for details).

Joining the SEARCH team on the road is Elsa, a service dog candidate being trained by Lauren Wagner, a High-Tech Crime Training Specialist with SEARCH. Elsa, a 5-month-old puppy, is a Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever mix—and she will be hanging out at the SEARCH booth and in some of SEARCH’s workshops at the Symposium.

Symposium attendees are encouraged to stop by and say hello to Elsa. The only rules to follow with any service dog are: 1) Always ask permission first before petting any service dog; and 2) Respect the dog while it is working.

Lauren is training Elsa on behalf of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a national nonprofit organization that breeds, raises, and trains assistance dogs for individuals with disabilities. Lauren is a volunteer “puppy trainer” for CCI—and Elsa is the third dog she’s trained.

Her first two dogs were Dora, who is now a therapy dog for retirement home and hospital visits (as well as Lauren’s personal pet), and Bonnie, who became a “skilled companion” to a 12-year-old boy. Bonnie attended last year’s Symposium in Huntsville and proved to be a popular draw—“With Bonnie, we had 700 people approach our booth in Huntsville,” Lauren noted.

SEARCH’s Lauren Wagner (left) attends the November 2016 graduation of Bonnie, a service dog she trained that was paired with a 12-year-old boy named Ben. Bonnie was a fixture at SEARCH’s booth and training events in the spring and summer of 2016 and made a lot of friends. Bonnie and Ben are doing great—and according to Lauren, “they’re conquering the world together.”
Elsa joined Lauren in December 2016, and will live with her for 18 months to 2 years. Lauren is responsible for raising, feeding, and providing health care and basic training for Elsa. This includes her socialization, basic obedience and environmental exposure—after which, Elsa will return to CCI for 6–9 months of professional training from their instructors.

Canine Companions assistance dogs are trained to respond to over 40 commands; they are able to retrieve dropped items, close and open doors, turn on light switches, pull laundry baskets and more. CCI will conduct a skills assessment to determine what type of service dog Elsa will be; the four main types are:

  • Service Dogs, which assist adults with physical disabilities by performing daily tasks.
  • Hearing Dogs, which alert the deaf and hard of hearing to important sounds.
  • Skilled Companions, which enhance independence for children and adults with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities.
  • Facility Dogs, which work with professionals in a visitation, education or healthcare setting.

Lauren said the dog training is more and more rewarding the longer she does it. She started volunteering because, given her heavy travel schedule for work, “I wanted to have a dog to travel with me. I’ve been engaged in volunteer work all my life. This combines my love for animals and being engaged in the disabled community.”

She also notes that graduation day for the service dogs she trains is “the most heartbreaking and heartwarming day you’ll ever have. It’s like when your kid grows up and goes to college.” But she also notes that doing something she loves for the greater good is satisfying.

The International Symposium on Child Abuse addresses all aspects of child maltreatment, including physical and sexual abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, poly-victimization, exploitation, intervention, trafficking, and prevention. Workshop tracks are geared specifically to such professionals as forensic interviewers, law enforcement, prosecution/legal experts, victim advocates, and experts in combating child exploitation. It’s sponsored by the National Children’s Advocacy Center. SEARCH is proud to be a Training Partner for this annual event.
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