SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - Spokane Valley native Karin Wagemann is dog-crazy.
Karin,who works with Working Dogs for Conservation said, “I am obsessed with dogs. I wouldn't say i love dogs, I would say I'm obsessed with dogs.”
Her love of dogs made a career working with them non-negotiable.
“I do want to help people at the same time and help animals with my love of dogs,” she explained.
After college, she started training dogs to detect narcotics for police and then she was given a unique opportunity.
“Translating that to help animals with dogs? It was a no brainer for me,” shared Wagemann.
For the last eight months, she's been training man's best friend to detect poachers in Africa.
“These dogs are trained to detect ivory, rhino horn and ammunition,” she said.
The dogs are helping to fight the poaching crisis in African national parks.
Karin added, “dogs can find hidden, smuggled objects that people cannot.”
Karin says training them to find these most-coveted and illegal items isn't as hard as people might think.
She explained, “if anyone has ever had a ball-driven dog, or your dog loves food and you go throw it in a bush and he spends forever trying to find it, it's the same concept.”
And it's just like training a dog to sniff out anything else; like a bomb sniffing dog you might see at an airport, or a police K9 trained to find drugs. The ball is placed with the contraband.
“When he finds his ball, he smells the ivory and slowly he makes that connection of, when I find ivory, I get my ball,” she shared.
While the process might not be too difficult, it can take months. For the dogs trained to sniff ivory, it was close to half a year.
But worth the wait.
Wagemann said, “when they have that ah-ha moment, where you see them, you see it - their eyes change, they act different. It's just, the best feeling in the world. “
The dogs are still training with their handlers in Africa. Wagemann will return in January to check their progress before the dogs get deployed, which means they will be situated at the gates of national parks, sniffing out cars to make sure no one gets away with the goods.
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