Rachel the search dog
Rachel was a cadaver dog-turned-pet detective search dog whose search work is featured in Katís book The Lost Pet Chronicles. She was trained in a discipline known as "scent discrimination," which means that Rachel could sniff the scent of a lost dog, ferret, horse, or any other animal and then track the scent trail of that animal. Rachel was also the first dog ever trained as a "cat detection dog" and was utilized in a tactical search method known as "area search." Area search methods involve trained dog handlers strategically directing a detection dog to check high probability areas where they suspect the object they are searching for is likely to be.
An area search dog does not run aimlessly in hunt of a scentóit is directed to check specific locations and is trained to give a readable "alert" should it detect the scent it is trained to find. In Rachelís case, Kat would direct Rachel to sniff under decks, into heavy brush, the screens covering basements, and other hiding places for cat scent. When Rachel detected the live scent of cats, she would wiggle her tail and often use her natural, birddog instinct to point. Kat lost Rachel to a brain tumor on January 3, 2001.
Here is how Kat Albrecht describes Rachel in her book
(partial excerpt from The Lost Pet Chronicles):
Rachel the puppy
As fast as Rachel grew, so did my love for her. She was such an adorable puppy! Rachelís most endearing obsession was how she coveted socks. As soon as I peeled the warm socks off my tired feet, Rachel would be there to pick them up with her soft, birddog mouth. She would waddle off, the white socks dragging between her pudgy legs. Once she entered her crate, she would cuddle and nudge the cotton blobs. She never chewed or damaged a sockóinstead, she treated them like fragile baby birds. It was hard to remain crabby when, after a miserable day at work, I walked in my front door to be greeted by a wiggling, silver puppy that was excited to see my stinky feet.
I was smitten with Rachelís looks. As she grew older, I took her out in public as often as I could. My intention, at first, was to practice obedience, to socialize her to crowds of people, and to expose her to unfamiliar noises. I knew her early experiences would either make her a natural search dog or make her a challenge to train when she was older. We practiced "sit-stays" in busy grocery store parking lots. I walked her through crowds of people and past explosive air compressor noises at a local balloon festival. I put her in a "down-stay" in the middle of an auto body shop to get her near loud "rat-tat-tat" noises.
But, truth be told, my original purpose for training transitioned into wanting to show off my beautiful dog. Nearly every person who saw her wanted to reach out and pet Rachelís silver, velour-like coat. One day we met an elderly woman with purplish-gray hair who smiled, bent down, and stroked my dog on the head as she exclaimed, "Oh honey, I just love your dog! Iíve been trying for years to get my hair that color!"