“There’s a saying, ‘Search and Rescue is for the serious and not the well-meaning.’ Because a lot of people have got good intentions, but because of the nature of what we do, not everybody’s cut out for it ...Not all these searches end on a happy note,” says Jeff Finlay, Chief of Operations and Executive Director of the North Pocono Search, Rescue, and Recovery Team.


“There’s a saying, ‘Search and Rescue is for the serious and not the well-meaning.’ Because a lot of people have got good intentions, but because of the nature of what we do, not everybody’s cut out for it ...Not all these searches end on a happy note,” says Jeff Finlay, Chief of Operations and Executive Director of the North Pocono Search, Rescue, and Recovery Team.


Finlay and his wife Dawn, of Texas Township, are the group’s co-founders. Three years ago, they helped develop a team in Central, New York. Since then, they’ve branched off and are now concentrating their efforts closer to home, in Northeast, PA. Prior to the team forming, Finlay says the closest K-9 units were out of Monroe, with a larger contingency in Columbia County.


North Pocono Search, Rescue and Recovery is an all-volunteer team, comprised of 10 active members, three new recruits and 12 dogs. In operation since March, their job is to find the missing and the lost. When they’re not hard at work, they’re hard at training. Finlay applauded Seelyville Fire Chief Norm Box for recently hosting a 16-hour Wilderness Search and Rescue training. “That’s being very pro-active, because it’s a lot different than going out and fighting fires. The human side of it, we’ve got a lot of training that goes into it: wilderness survival, crime scene preservation, mapping, navigation skills, (and) map and compass.” Handlers have to be certified as Search and Rescue Specialists before they can take the test with their dog, Finlay said.


Not always favorable
Searches in past have involved missing Alzheimer patients and lost hunters. Like last year in Pike County, when a missing hunter was found safe and sound following a three-hour search. “He got stuck in the swamp and just waited until daylight to come out,” Finlay said. That’s not always the case.


“A successful search doesn’t always have a favorable outcome. We’ve done searches where we’ve found someone who’s deceased, whether they had a heart attack and we found them long after the fact, or they committed suicide.” Finlay says recovery brings closure to the family. “The family has the means to move on,” he said.


All dogs aren’t equal
The Finlays themselves have five dogs in various stages of training. “I’ve got European working dogs,” he said, including a Dutch Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, and a Belgiun Tervuren. “European law enforcement and military uses them. So they tend to have the right temperament and the right work ethic. Work ethic’s the big thing ...You want a dog that gets out there and has the drive to keep working for a sustained period of time. And of course, they have to like using their noses. Dogs by nature have better olfactory scent than humans, but not ever dog’s equal,” he said. “They have to enjoy using their noses, that’s something we call hunt-drive. They have to have high hunt-drive. And you combine that. They learn using their noses and finding people and there’s a reward for them. The reward can be just finding the person. A lot of dogs, just as soon as they find them, they just love engaging with the person and they don’t have to have anything extra. Some dogs like a food reward. Some dogs like to play tug. Some dogs like to catch a ball. They pick out the reward, we don’t. But two big things is they have to like using their nose and they have to like people.”    

  
Finlay says they’re currently recruiting. The process to get on the team in stringent, with a criminal background check and three-stage interview process. If you’d like to learn more about the team, call (570)351-8830 or email him at jmfinlay@ptd.net.