Students at Highland Park Elementary School in Sheridan were given the opportunity yesterday to see a land mine-sniffing dog in action, thanks to a state tour coordinated by Diana Enzi.
Enzi is a Sheridan native and wife of U.S. Senator Mike Enzi. According to Enzi, who is a leader in the program which began in Wyoming, the tour helps raise awareness for students whose donations have helped sponsor dogs that detect land mines around the world.
One of those dogs is Senna, a Belgian Malinois, who showed the students how she helped find land mines during five and a half years of service in Afghanistan. Following the demonstration, Enzi talked about the program and its purpose.
Kimberly McCasland is Senna's handler. She told students at Highland Park there are more than 600 different types of land mines, and about two people an hour are injured or killed by them. She said of the 192 countries in the world, 70 are known to have land mines within their borders. One problem with finding land mines, she said, is that modern mines are made of plastic, so they cannot be found with metal detectors.
She said in the 17 years that dogs have been used to locate mines, more than 500 dogs have been trained, and only four have been lost because of injuries suffered in the line of duty. Dogs are trained to respond to commands in Dutch, she said, so handlers must learn the language.
Visitors to yesterday's demonstration learned that when the students at Highland Park started raising money for the CHAMPS project in 2003, they brought quarters for donations. The tour includes stops at two schools each day. Stops were in Cheyenne, Casper and Gillette before coming to Sheridan. The rest of this week, they'll visit schools in Cody, Riverton, Rock Springs and Green River.