Sunday, July 17, 2011

Awesome Gush Trip Part #1: Couch Potatoes Beware

RBS has an email list where people can post just about anything (appropriate, that is: it's well censored). In any given email you can hear about a lost dog, someone seeking a ride, houses for sale, or someone looking for a book. It's a great way for the greater BS and RBS communities to connect and it's a real life-saver for some. 

Thursday night I was browsing the list and saw a trip listed that caught my attention: A trip from RBS (you could join on the van or drive your own car with the convoy) to Elazar, one of the settlements in the Gush Etzion area. The tiyul was "marketed" as a demonstration by dog handlers showing how they train dogs as guard dogs for the yishuvim. There wasn't that much info given, but I figured it would be perfect; anything dog related is right up our alley. My kids have been having WAY too much "screen time" because of "vacation" and the fact that it's so hot that no one wants to go out.I took the five big kids and left TPH to fend for himself under the watchful eye of N. 

I haven't really been out that way at all since we made Aliyah last summer, and I was amazed at how much Efrat has grown. It seems to be spreading all through the mountains, and it's a beautiful thing to see. I've always been a fan of the Gush region, and we have discussed moving there several times, but because of family, friends and schools we're here in RBS for now. Elazar, like the rest of the Gush is gorgeous. Houses, apartments, you name it, it continues to grow as well. 

We got out of the car and were treated to a very impressive demonstration. We were introduced to several Belgian Shepherds and their handlers, one only 13 years old. The beginning was "fine-but-I'm- starving-when-can-we-eat-did-you-even-bring-food-how-much-longer-is-this-when-are-we-going-home-(presumably-to-play-computer-games)?" My kids have had dogs; big dogs, small dogs, male dogs, female dogs, big whoop.

The showed us "Ragli" (heel), "Shev" (sit) and shh! don't tell, but even I was itching for my iPhone. 

This was cute, but we couldn't really think of any actual practical applications when one might need to use this:

Then they introduced us to "Chubby", a (you guessed it) chubby chocolate lab that was being trained for an autistic child. Going rate? Around $25,000 - $30,000. I have to admit, he was cute, I'll take one, please.

But then they started talking about how these dogs are training to protect the families on the yishuvim (settlements). They introduced us to a puppy that was actually born to one of the Fogel's neighbors and has been given to this group of handlers to train and return to Itamar. Some dogs will be regular guard dogs, others will learn to be search and rescue dogs. And next up...attack dogs

There is something about boys and violence (ok, I'll admit, they had mine and J's full attention by now, too) that makes everyone perk up. Even more ominous, the guide kept asking us to stand behind the line, and not make any sudden movements. Oooooh. The head trainer put on arm guards, and showed us how these dogs are trained to attack when either a) their handler is in trouble or b) the are given a command. 

Hmm..suddenly this was quite interesting, and no one was complaining about hunger/thirst/heat/boredom any more. Out of the blue, the main trainer yelled "Allah Akbar!" and this dog came charging at him like nothing I've ever seen before.

Suddenly my computer game-brained zombies were alive! "Imma! Did you see that??? He could've killed him! Please, please can we see that again?? That was awesome! Can we get one? Can I join this group? Can I do this in the army? Please, Imma, please, please, please!!" I have to admit, it was pretty cool. 

They explained to us that it is quite easy to train a dog to attack an aggressive target. But what about a passive one, say a guy holding a hand grenade that might be standing quite still? That's harder. But look what we got on camera:

Notice how the "target" is kind of just minding his own business? And she comes out of nowhere on command of her handler, who by the way is all of 17 years old. 

The funniest thing was that after watching this type of thing for about half an hour, my kids kept asking when we were getting one. My answer? We have one dog and one handler at home, and frankly, that's more than enough for me:

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