GCSAR shows off equine and K-9 unit


TORRINGTON – Goshen County Search and Rescue (GCSAR) held a meet and greet at Pioneer Park on Saturday, Sept. 18 as a way of building relations with the community.

Art Lowther with GCSAR said the team has two meet-and-greets a year to show the community who they are.

“This is the ability for the team to come out and show what they have been training on, but also interact with the public, so the public has a better understanding of what search and rescue is,” Lowther said. 

The main feature of the event was to show how the new equine team is being used to flank the K-9 unit on callouts. The team did a demonstration on how it works. 

Tennille Grosz is the trainer for Winston, a German shepherd certified in live finds and human remains detection (HRD) for search and rescue. After remains were hidden in the park, Grosz gave Winston the scent to detect. Two horse riders flanked Winston on either side to look out for any dangers ahead. 

Alicia Goulart, who is part of the equine team, said being on a horse provides multiple advantages while on a search. 

“Because we are so high up, we can see further out and around us a little bit better,” Goulart said. 

 The equine team is brand new, but Goulart said it is very necessary in rural areas and horses allow for longer searches. 

“These [horses] are not going to get tired. They are going to go all day,” Goulart said. 

The horses also make for great roadblocks which proved useful when Winston headed out toward the street in search of the remains. 

After a few minutes of canvasing the park, Winston circled a bush and was able to find what he was looking for. Grosz said if he finds remains, he will lay down, which is exactly what happened during the demonstration. 

Winston is not the only dog Grosz is training as seven-month-old Reece took part in the activity after. 

“Hopefully, they’ll both be dual purpose and certified in both human remains and in live find,” Grosz said. 

Reece started a little closer to the location and managed to find the remains just as well with two other horses flanking her during the search. 

The demonstration highlighted the team’s vision to be versatile. Rather than having one person have one skillset, GCSAR is trying to blend all of the skills and resources together to maximize efficiency. 

Another new program for GCSAR is the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) section which Dakota Vlach is starting up. Vlach said the section will be used for quick assess and to help get through areas quicker. 

“We live in a rural area, and it would be a viable option for getting down some of the narrower roads,” Vlach said. 

Along with the demonstration in the park, the search and rescue team also wanted to show the community who they are. 

“To have people come out and see what our capabilities are and just being able to see our faces and know who we are,” Vlach said. “If you don’t know we are here, how do you know to call?”    

For Grosz and the K-9 unit, the meet and greet helps people to know they are friendly and are there to help. 

“People are maybe a little leery of dogs. German shepherds have a stigma attached to them being aggressive,” Grosz said. “These [dogs] don’t do that… they look for people.” 

According to the members of GCSAR, all of the new resources and skills continue to make keeping the community safe and informed the number one priority.

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