Many dog days for this business aviation pilot

 - May 16, 2008, 11:50 AM

Among those involved in search- and-rescue operations at the World Trade Center after September 11 were several dogs and their handlers. Although corporate pilot Roseanne Perini was not available for the rescue efforts at the WTC disaster site because she was with her New York-based Gulfstream IV, she has been a search-and-rescue dog handler since 1998. She and her dog, Jack, a German shepherd assigned to her, are members of the Adirondack Rescue Dog Association, which specializes in training AirScent dogs.

AirScent dogs are typically German shepherds, paired with a motivated and capable volunteer handler who has undertaken a three-year training program. The dog is handled off-lead, within sight of the handler, and seeks human scent carried on wind currents as the method to locate a missing person, as opposed to the traditional system of using bloodhounds to follow a scent left by a person on a path or trail.

Perini started looking into volunteering for humanitarian services when she and the rural community where she lived were devastated by a 1998 traffic accident that killed five nurses. The accident and subsequent rescue effort caused Perini to “reflect upon my life and how community service should fit in.” The logical route for her involved dogs because her family had shown and bred them for many years and Perini maintains three show dogs of her own.

“After careful research on search- and-rescue dogs, it became obvious AirScenting was the method I wanted to pursue, since there are very few people handling this type of dog and there is a great need for them,” said Perini. “Marilyn Greene, a world-renowned missing-persons expert, private investigator, original AirScent dog trainer and founding member of Adirondack in 1969, introduced me to the specifics of the method. Considering Marilyn’s Adirondack team had exceptionally high standards for training and a clear and concise focus on missing- persons work, I joined Adirondack as a field support member and studied the method for several months before Marilyn assigned me Jack.”

During the three-year training regimen, the dog is not only trained to AirScent methods, but the handler is also schooled in navigation, lost-person behavior and statistics, crime-scene preservation and basic first aid. Perini explained that in the Adirondack program, a dog is selected by the directors and trainers and then assigned to a handler. Most of the animals are donated through German Shepherd Rescue, local Humane Societies and individuals.

Dogs Located Six Firemen

Adirondack dogs were dispatched late on September 11 to Manhattan. The handler teams, including Bob Gleeson and his search dog Ruger, successfully located six missing firefighters, and also pro- vided for a safer environment for other res-
cue workers. The dogs searched unstable areas of rubble to limit the risk to human searchers. “I am very proud of my colleagues and their dogs,” said Perini. “They worked hard in grueling conditions and are to be commended. I was with my airplane at the time and unable to get to my dog, thus unable to dispatch with the team.”

Adirondack has had a long history of locating missing persons, Perini said. “Last year we located a missing father, and in 1999 we made a two-week search in the White Mountains [New Hampshire] for a Learjet that had been missing nearly three years.” (The aircraft crashed on Christmas Eve 1996 on approach to New Hampshire’s Lebanon Municipal Airport, killing both pilots).

“Each search is a mystery to solve and all are approached using our database of statistics, which helps us solve the mystery. The thing that stands out for me on each search is the people who are touched by our work and demonstrate this by helping us. The kindness that people exhibit in taking care of us during searches is incredible, from nursing homes and individuals who provide sleeping quarters and warm meals to people who provide on-site support with ATVs and helicopters.”

As a corporate pilot, Perini is not always available for pop-up rescue missions. Nevertheless, “we are always on call.” Sometimes it’s from a government agency, a nursing home or a family.

“I returned from flying at 6 p.m. one Saturday and the telephone rang at 6:30 p.m. requesting our services to locate a missing three-year-old. Jack and I were just on our way out the door when we got a call that the child had been located in her own home–hiding.” Perini and the other handlers have a “go kit” ready at all times. Jack is aware of the “go kit” and “becomes very excited when it is brought out; he loves his work and lets me know that clearly by vocalizing and leaping into the car with great enthusiasm.”

Bizav Steps Up with Donations

Rescue-mission-related expenses, such as special equipment and clothing, accommodations, food and travel are born by the volunteer handlers. Adirondack operates on a “shoestring budget,” said Perini. “Most of the gear is purchased by the handlers, which is difficult for some. Often we will pass the hat to cover veterinary expenses for dogs injured in the field. All of the radio communications equipment required, however, is out of financial reach for each handler to purchase.”

Perini, who may be the only corporate pilot who is also a rescue dog handler, said the Adirondack Rescue Dog Association was “thrilled when Sabreliner’s Midcoast Aviation in St. Louis stepped up to the plate to provide us with a repeater and base station unit for our communications system.” Jack Vaughn, Midcoast v-p of corporate aviation marketing, met the canine Jack when Perini brought her company’s Gulfstream to the facility. After she explained that her Jack wasn’t a guard dog for the airplane but a rescue dog, the other Jack was so impressed that he got the ball rolling immediately on providing funding for the communications equipment.

Other business aviation corporate sponsors and contributors to Adirondack include Air Routing International, Atlantic Aviation and The Air Group. Individuals or companies may donate money or equipment through Adirondack’s Web site at