Commonwealth Canine Search and Recovery
Gretchen and Robert Duncan
Name: Robert Duncan
K9 Partner: Gretchen, German Shepherd; Aiya (deceased), German Shepherd; Laddie (retired), mix
Team Position: Standards and Records, K9 Handler & Support, Board of Directors
Years with CCSR: 5, Charter member
For a Living: Kentucky Department of Education, 2009-present; high school classroom teacher, 1980-2009
Other emergency services experience:
• Cave Rescue, Central and Eastern Regions National Cave Rescue Commission Level II, Responder and Instructor, 1991-2005
• EMT-B, 1994-2008
• Volunteer firefighter, Captain, Assistant Chief, 1995-2006
• Georgetown/Scott County Emergency Management Agency/Office of Homeland Security, Captain, 1997 to present
• Human Remains Detection and Recovery of Kentucky (HRDRK)
• CPR/1st Aid
• Search Management, National SAR School
• IMS 300 & 400
• Man tracking/clue awareness
• Weather spotter
• Haz-mat operations
• Bunches of other stuff too numerous to mention
I affected my first rescue in the Red River Gorge in 1975 while hiking with college buddies during spring break. We had just come back to the car when somebody pulled into the trail head and asked if we had rope, that a bunch of canoeists were caught on a snag in the middle of the swollen river. Not even being a Boy Scout, I was prepared: I had 50 feet of yellow nylon ski rope in the trunk of my car. We rushed to the scene to find half a dozen people clinging to a dead tree. We flung the rope out to them and they were able tie off on their end as we tied off to a tree on the bank. They pulled themselves out one by one, the only person wearing a PFD was the one who reported he knew how to swim. Their canoes and gear began drifting down stream as it broke loose from the snag. (I distinctly recall one man had the camera hanging around his neck wrapped in a large plastic bag; it occurred to me that the bag was better at holding the water in than keeping the camera dry.) That is probably when I was bitten by the rescue bug. The SAR infection remained dormant for several years after that.
I acquired a stray German Shepherd a few years later. After I had moved back home waiting for the big break after finishing my Bachelor’s I began working him with law enforcement in Louisville. The K9 handlers thought he was a good dog with lots of potential. Shortly thereafter, the big break came and I moved to Tennessee. I always kept in the back of my mind (reference the dormant SAR infection) that he would still make a good SAR dog. But, without guidance or training nor a team to work with he never became that dog.
I took my first cave rescue class in the summer of 1991; and it has been all downhill from there. The SAR bug came to the surface in full force and I have been involved in some sort of volunteer rescue since then. Cave rescue led to becoming an EMT, EMT led to becoming a volunteer firefighter and VFD led to Emergency Management. I joined my first dog team in 1997 and have been active since. Somehow I have managed to stay married to one of the most patient women on the face of the earth and raise a family.