Dog Day Afternoons

Working Dog Weekend pays tribute to our hardworking hounds.

It's been a hard day's night, and Tasha's been working like a dog. Which is not so surprising, given that she is a Belgian Malinois.

Tasha is one of dozens of canines participating in Lake Farmpark's Working Dog Weekend, a celebration of the various skills of man's best friend, from law enforcement and therapy to herding and hunting. Warding off mailmen doesn't get you in this show.

Tasha -- along with owner Gary Flynn, president of the Ohio Search Dog Association -- was part of a canine team that was deployed to New York by the Federal Emergency Management Agency within 24 hours of the World Trade Center collapse on September 11. She worked 20-hour days, bounding through smoldering rubble in search of survivors. It was an "extremely overwhelming and very humbling" experience, according to Tasha's spokesperson -- Flynn.

"We are extremely proud of our canines," he says. "They completed the task at hand and worked past levels of exhaustion."

Tasha's work at Ground Zero left her with souvenir scars on her nose, legs, and belly, as well as burns that have left several patches where fur won't regrow. But "she's back in service and working," Flynn says. Hopefully, at a desk job this time.

Many dogs, Flynn notes, aren't up for the physical and emotional challenges of such strenuous labor. Pooches that are sociable, confident, non-aggressive, and even-tempered fare best. But even those with the right stuff require 12 to 18 months of training before they're ready to punch the clock.

Dogs apparently don't see work the same way we do, Flynn says. "If they knew they were actually working, they probably wouldn't do it," he laughs.