It's A Dog's Life

Recently,  the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter team and organiser Sam Koome from Police Search and Rescue (SAR) team co-ordinated a unique opportunity to  conduct specialised winch training with the police dogs.
This exercise was designed to provide exposure to winching procedures, which  are essential for the SAR teams as they operate nationwide and frequently within Auckland Westpac Rescue’s catchment area. These scenarios are critical  as we may be tasked with retrieving the SAR teams during operations.
The training session allowed our crew to stretch their current Standard  Operating Procedures (SOPs) by utilising a CARB (Child Animal Rescue Bag),  ensuring the safe recovery of the SAR team’s canine partners – often jokingly  referred to as “man-eating land sharks.”
Recognising the importance of safety, it was noted that muzzles, which are not part of the standard gear on board our helicopters, will now be included  in future operations to ensure the dogs can be winched safely and without  harm to our crew.

The training allowed a structured crawl-walk-run approach. Initially handlers and their dogs participated in hangar statics to become familiar with the  process before the dogs jumped inside the aircraft. Then onto two winch  evolutions near base.

The day proved to be an excellent training opportunity for everyone involved.
Critical Care Paramedic, Andreas Schold faced the challenging task of  attaching the winch hook to Adam Johannsen while his dog “Teo” added an extra  layer of excitement to the exercise.
The police dog handlers had a fantastic time and gained valuable insights  into their equipment and preparation processes for potential helicopter  extractions. From the perspective of our crew, it was an excellent training  opportunity for future scenarios requiring police dog winching.
Special thanks to Alex Stammers for the incredible photographs.

It is important to note that the dogs are not wearing ear defenders as stated by Police:

“Hearing protection has been trialled by our Police Dog Section practice leaders and Massey University in late 2022.In conclusion, it was found to carry more risk to the dog (due to restrictions around their neck from the securing straps, and equipment becoming detached during deployment) than not wearing the equipment. Equipment becoming detached during helicopter deployment is particularly dangerous for obvious reasons. In short, it was found that the dog did not suffer any ill effects from noise if exposed in limited situations. The frequency of this exposure is obviously managed by the handler to mitigate any hearing damage.”