Why I did this: A reflection on becoming a SAR K9 Handler (As written by Chat GPT)

Jay Christianson


There has been a tremendous amount of press about ChatGPT; below is a quote from the natural language A.I. tool when given the prompt, “Write an article called ‘Why I did this: A reflection on becoming a SAR K9 Handler.'” Comments by an actual human below the quoted article from ChatGPT.

“Becoming a Search and Rescue (SAR) K9 handler is a decision that transforms not only your career but also your entire way of life. It is a path that demands commitment, dedication and an unyielding passion for helping others in need. Reflecting on my journey and why I chose to become a SAR K9 handler, I am filled with a profound sense of purpose and fulfillment. In this blog post, I aim to share my motivations, experiences, and the incredible impact this role has had on my life.

  1. Answering the Call to Serve: Humans inherently desire to make a positive difference. This yearning became especially strong when I witnessed the selflessness and courage of SAR teams during natural disasters and other emergencies. The desire to be part of something bigger than myself, to actively contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities, ultimately led me to choose the path of a SAR K9 handler.
  2. The Bond with a Four-Legged Partner: One of the most remarkable aspects of being a SAR K9 handler is the extraordinary bond between a handler and a dog. The relationship between a handler and their canine companion is built on trust, teamwork, and an unwavering connection. Together, we face challenges, conquer obstacles, and share a language that transcends words. This unique partnership enhances our effectiveness in search and rescue operations and provides an unbreakable emotional support system.
  3. The Power of Scent: Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, surpassing our capabilities. Witnessing the astonishing abilities of SAR K9s in detecting and locating missing persons is awe-inspiring. The science behind their olfactory power and training to hone in on specific scents is fascinating and humbling. As a handler, I can harness this natural ability and work alongside my K9 partner to save lives.
  4. The Thrill of the Hunt: An undeniable thrill and sense of accomplishment comes with each successful search and rescue mission. The adrenaline rush as we deploy, the meticulous planning, and the exhilaration of finding a missing person are experiences like no other. Every successful mission reinforces my dedication to this noble profession and reminds me of the impact we can make on individuals and their families.
  5. Personal Growth and Continuous Learning: Becoming a SAR K9 handler is a constant growth and learning journey. From mastering search techniques to expanding knowledge in wilderness survival, medical skills, and canine behavior, the training never stops. Each experience, whether a successful mission or a challenging training session, presents an opportunity to enhance skills, gain wisdom, and develop resilience. The personal growth and development I have experienced as a SAR K9 handler have far exceeded my expectations.

Conclusion: Becoming a SAR K9 handler has been one of the most profound decisions of my life. It has allowed me to combine my love for dogs, my passion for serving others, and my innate desire to make a positive impact. The rewards of this role go beyond the tangible; they touch the depths of the human spirit and remind us of the interconnectedness we share. As I reflect on my journey, I am grateful for the opportunities, challenges, and lives touched along the way.”

What a tool ChatGPT is and how much it misses is almost as astonishing as the fact that this tool can produce a piece like this. What am I talking about when I say that it missed so much? Well, I see the above piece as an overview of the general reasons that all of us handle a dog, but it is only that, a general overview or an introduction. For me, the missing detail is the element of wonder. There is a member of our K9 group that calls it F.M. for ….. Magic and that captures what I am on about here.

I’m a science-type guy who spent years in sensory science; I understand a lot about K9 olfaction. I enjoy service; as a Rescue member of an MRA SAR team, I get up at 2 A.M., climb mountains in awful conditions, and do it with a smile. Growing up on a ranch, breeding dogs, and working with dozens of animals in many capacities, I get the partnership element too. Exhilaration and thrill of the hunt, I feel that. Personal growth and continuous learning on a topic that has twice as many opinions as there are practitioners? You bet! But it is the magic of it all coming together on an incident or training when you think you have a good bead on what is happening, and suddenly your K9 partner shows you something utterly contrary to what you expected; being able to read the dog, surprising your predetermined ideas, and solving the problem that’s where the magic of working with a K9 truly lies. That is why I do it; I like the magic.

Jay is the President of and a Field Team Leader for El Paso County Search and Rescue, a fully-accredited Mountain Rescue Association group serving the needs of lost, injured, and stranded people in El Paso County, Colorado. He is the primary handler of Saxby, an HRD Land/Water, Area I, Trailing III, and Article Search certified K9.
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