A canine quest | VailDaily.com

A canine quest

Special to the DailyJennifer Rosely and her dog, Velcro, train on the Front Range twice a week. They practice rescue work in a training area near Denver International Airport.

VAIL ” For Jennifer Rosely and Velcro, one life saved will validate all of their efforts.

“If she can find one person and we can save one life, it’ll be all worth it,” she said.

Rosely, a Vail code enforcement officer, is training Velcro, a blue heeler, to be an urban search-and-rescue dog. But a long road is ahead for Rosely and Velcro, who can’t even take her first test until she’s 18 months old. And then, only one out of 50 dogs make the team.

“We’re trying our best to make it,” Rosely said.

In the meantime, Rosely and Velcro are going to the Denver area twice a week to participate in training run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“I love this dog and she wants to work for me,” Rosely said. “I feel an obligation to do my best to try out for this team.”

Urban search and rescue dogs are used to find people who are buried, such as after Sept. 11 or the Oklahoma City bombing.

“The dogs from 9/11 are my heroes,” she said.

The dogs can also search for lost hikers or other lost people, which would make Velcro’s presence in the Vail Valley useful for searches.

It has always been Rosely’s dream to work with dogs. One of the reasons she got into law enforcement was the possibility of working with canines.

Rosely got the idea of raising a rescue dog before Velcro was even born. She trained with FEMA dogs for eight months just to get to know the animals and the handlers.

Rosely adopted 9-month-old Velcro in Nebraska when the dog was just 7 weeks old. Rosely administered tests to the dog to make sure it had the “nerve strength” to be a rescue dog.

The training that Velcro and Rosely do now takes place near Denver International Airport and at other spots on the Front Range.

At the site near the Denver airport, Velcro searches a field of rubble, relying on human scent to find the buried person. In training, the buried person is actually holding a toy, which is the lure for the dog.

The government will only pay for the work that Velcro does once he’s become an official search-and-rescue dog. Until then, Rosely must pay for the training herself. A lot of that is the gas money she’s spending to drive to Denver twice a week.

She’s looking for donations from the community to help her train Velcro.

Rosely now brings Velcro along with her during her daily duties as a Vail code enforcement officer. Rosely, who lives in Dillon, has worked for the town of Vail for nine years.

“The canine is a great tool just to have people come talk to you,” Rosely said. “She’s a part of the community.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado

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