Cali the K9 takes us through a SAR training session


Cali the K9 has a nose for sniffing out lost loved ones. When her mistress Peggy Jo Wilson puts on Cali’s vest, she knows it’s time for work.

“She’s been about I mean almost 9 years as a K-9 researcher,” Wilson said. “She is now 11 years old. She has had a very successful career.”

While she is part of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue team, Cali’s expertise is in what is called HRD.

“In this particular case, Cali is a human remains detector dog,” Wilson said.

Training is key to keeping Cali’s skills sharp.

“We train in buildings, vehicles, different types of elements just to get them used to any type of environment that they might be working in,” Wilson said.

“Usually when we get to a scene where we go look, we acclimate them, hydrate them a lot, give them time to exercise, and when we give them their command, that’s when ‘they will work to find whatever they’ I’m looking for.

The command Wilson gives Cali is “Ready?” Go find a friend.

“Dogs are amazing. Their keen sense of smell is far superior to what humans are. So they are able to solve many more cases than humans ever would,” Wilson said. “They can smell under the ground and they can smell things that humans just can’t smell. It’s absolutely amazing.

Wilson acquires the sources of Cali’s training from seminars with other SAR teams.

“We train on blood, tissue, bone, whatever is available to the handlers we acquire over time.”

All samples were donated to science.

Most SAR teams are entirely volunteers.

“Even if you don’t have a K-9, volunteer for research,” Wilson said. “I worked with the field team before working on K9 myself and it was great because you also learn the basics of search. There is a very, very high demand for search and rescue and we are only a handful of volunteers here in the Panhandle.

many of the volunteers are retired law enforcement, military, or civilians.

In case you were wondering, no dog breed is better than another when it comes to tracking.

“We’ve seen small dogs to very large breed dogs doing search and rescue.”

Cali and Wilson are a great team that has brought many families together.

“Once they find the source, I let them play because it’s a really fun game for them,” Wilson said.

“Alli K9 works very hard on tennis balls and treats.”

Cali is approaching retirement age.

“Some K9s can work up to 12 or 13,” Wilson said. “It really depends on the K-9 and the manager as well how long they want.”

Wilson also said that when she wasn’t working, Cali was just a couch potato who liked to watch TV and cuddle.

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