December 2020 / Insight

Insights From Hart’s K9 Kennel Master

Karen Yardley, K9 Kennel Master, Afghanistan

What does your job involve?

I am the Kennel Master for all of Hart’s K9 projects in Afghanistan. I oversee the K9 teams, making sure that all teams are at a high standard, that all kennelling facilities are maintained for the dogs’ health and welfare amongst many other things.

How long have you been working with dogs and what drew you to this kind of work?

I have been working with dogs for 20 years. I started in the Army when we were asked for volunteers to handle Patrol dogs in Bosnia; I volunteered, completed my Dog Handlers course with a recommendation to transfer to full time handler and dog trainer. I enjoyed handling so much I transferred to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

What, in your eyes, is a successful day at the office?

When all clients, handlers and dogs are safe and our K9 teams have performed their jobs to the highest standard.

How are the dogs in your unit different to pet dogs?

They are working dogs. The average pet dog will sleep half of the day which is normal, but our dogs have such high drive and energy from their working dog bloodlines, that they couldn’t possibly settle in a home whilst they are in their prime. They need an outlet for all that energy, which is why it’s great for them to work. To them it’s not a chore, it’s pure fun and stimulates them physically and mentally. But like pets they receive love and affection from their handlers.

What role do your dogs carry out?

Our dogs detect Explosives and Narcotics at Airports, Embassies and Entry Control Points.

What do clients expect from the K9 service?

Clients expect the K9 teams to keep them safe and act as a deterrent.

Is there something unique about a dog that’s chosen for the K9 unit or can any dog be trained?

Choosing a dog is the most important part. The dogs we choose are unique because they have high drive which means they are motivated to search out and use their noses through genetics and instinct.

What is the toughest part of your job?

I would say it’s all the paperwork. Dog people are naturally outdoorsy and hands-on people!

What do you think we can learn from dogs?

I think we can learn to take each day as it comes and live in the moment, as they do.

What is your life motto?

What’s for you won’t go by you – my mum used to say that.

2020 has been a challenging year. What has been your takeaway from 2020?

It’s made me see more positives in everything. I see the things I am lucky to have and I appreciate the people around me a lot more.

What drew you to work with Hart?

I have heard positive things from people in the dog world; also they have staff members I have worked with previously, now working for Hart which makes it easier to integrate.

Working in Afghanistan, what are the challenges of running a kennel?

Supplies are always a challenge but we have a great logistics team. Things take a little longer to be done, also there’s always the threat level.

What is your advice to others working in conflict-affected regions, far from home?

Stay alert and never travel alone. Take some down time.

What are you looking forward to in this role with Hart?

The smooth running of all K9 projects and then we can put in some fun dog training for the handlers and dogs.

What do you hope 2021 will bring?

A Covid-19 vaccine.