Tuesday, August 4, was National Night Out, America’s Night Against Crime, hosted by the Santee Sheriff’s Station. The event was held at Woodglen Vista Park, just off N. Magnolia Ave., and ran from 5:00-7:30 pm. There was music, food, games and activities for kids, a K-9 demonstration, and much more. Several companies and organizations had booths, including one where children could practice calling 911 for an emergency. Also on hand were groups with information about drunk driving, domestic abuse, and child safety.
One group attending was the Sheriff’s Volunteer Search and Rescue team. Four of the volunteers and their dogs were there to visit and answer questions. I spoke with Lenore Ceithaml, a seven-year SAR veteran, with her golden retriever, Aura. Ceithaml, a breast cancer survivor, first got involved with the team following her treatment as a way of giving back to the community and being out in nature. Aura is “area certified,” which means that she is trained to find any human in a particular area. These dogs are used for searches where the missing person is likely the only human around other than searchers. Aura has several other certifications, including “avalanche certification” for snow rescues. Generally it takes two years for a dog to become certified, but Ceithaml’s other dog, Karma, became area certified in 17 months – quite an achievement for a dog only 20 months old.
One of the highlights of the evening was the K-9 demonstration by members of the Sheriff’s K-9 team. The San Diego Sheriff’s Department has the largest K-9 unit in California and, at 44 years, the longest extant. The star of the demonstration was Marco, a four-year-old German shepherd from Denmark by way of Israel who takes all of his commands in Danish. All dogs in the K-9 unit undergo a 12-week basic training to learn commands and their main role, which includes acting as backup for their handlers and chasing down fleeing suspects. They are then cross-trained in a second area, such as drug detection or tracking. Dogs live full-time with their handlers, retiring at age 10 or if they become medically unfit.
The Chase Down
Along with all of the information there was music by Thatz Entertainment, games for the kids, and food and drinks. Thanks go out to Andy and Anita Bautista, members of the Santee Parks and Recreation Committee (SPARC) and overall “super volunteers” for providing the hot dogs and drinks.
Lenore Ceithaml and Aura
MADD Display Vehicle
Santee Fire-Rescue Display
Anita and Andy Bautista
Domestic Violence Victims Display