Midseason Musings: 2021 Summer Update

We are halfway through our season of finding dead bats on wind farms. This work will help biologists understand trends in how the turbines affect bats, particularly during migration.

I am handling Niffler for his first season as a K9 Conservationist, while Rachel Hamre handles Barley at another field site. We’re all loving this setup. Niffler is getting lots of 1:1 attention with me while Rachel gets to learn from an experienced K9 for her first field season.

This project is also perfect for both first-time handlers and first-time K9s. Bat carcasses, unlike scat or pathogens, are easy to confirm for the handler. This makes it relatively straightforward to reward the dog in the field. Additionally, each search is quite short (15-30 minutes). At Niffler’s field site, vegetation is quite short and moving around is physically easy. Barley and Rachel are contending with taller vegetation, which is a bit trickier.

We are publishing an entire podcast episode in a few weeks about working with a teenage dog for his first field season. There’s a lot that went into my decision to work with him at such a young age. Our season so far has been remarkably smooth! He is really showing up and showing off.

We were also featured in an amazing writeup by The Atlantic, which covers the what and why of wind farm work with dogs. Check it out if you’re curious about what we’re up to in more detail!

Barley is dealing with some iliopsoas pain. I suspect this is from an old injury years ago – it’s just soft tissue. His bones and joints look great, but a vet found that his right leg has a bit less muscle mass than his left. His back and hip were quite tender as well. He’s getting lots of physical therapy and will need to take 2 months of rest after our field season. We’re currently fundraising for an Assisi Loop to give him tPEMT therapy from wherever we are. This little device will really help reduce inflammation by pulsing electromagnetic waves at his injury site. Rachel is also teaching him lots of strength and flexibility exercises.

Barley LOVES his work, so keeping his body healthy enough for him to work is a top priority. He’s only 7.5, but he’s been hard on his body with all that enthusiasm!

Things with Saga the van are finally stabilizing as well. Although the odometer say 205,000 miles, the turbo and engine are completely new! We’ve got a new-to-us Variocage crash-proof crate that was donated (thank you). The solar panels have been reinstalled with a tilting mechanism so we can catch sunrays more easily in the winter.

Our employers for the summer gave Rachel and me both summer housing, so Niffler and I are living in a little hunting cabin instead of in Saga. This gives us the benefit of running water and AC. That said, we’re excited to move back into the van at the end of the field season. Rachel and Barley are living in an extended-stay motel.

We just got a letter from the IRS giving us official 501(c)3 status – we’re legally a nonprofit! This means that we’ll be announcing our board shortly.

We are hoping to write grants and fundraise to bring Rachel on as an early cofounder very soon. If anyone knows of funding sources to explore to that end, please let us know.

Aside from the fieldwork, I am also hard at work running our training mentor series through Patreon. Each month, patrons and I get together for training video analysis. It’s a ton of fun and our trainees are making lots of progress. You can learn more about that at Patreon.com/k9conservationists. I am also keeping up with the podcast and am loving all of it!

That said, I’m sure humans and dogs alike will be excited for some respite come October. 5 more weeks of hard work ahead!

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