CPL Natasha Falconer never imagined her passion for caring about animals would lead her to a fulfilling career with the Air Force. Now working in the Breeding Cell of the RAAF Amberley Security and Fire School, CPL Falconer’s journey began when her husband, an Airfield Defence Guard at the time introduced her to some MWD Handlers while in Darwin.
“I get paid to move around the country and see different states and go different places overseas and I get to do it all with a dog.”
However, being a MWD Handler is not all about playing with cute puppies and dogs. It takes skill, determination and mental strength to work alongside these canines trained for controlled aggression.
You also have to prepare for things not going according to plan, or worse, losing your best four legged mate.
“The dogs we deal with are not pets so you need to be quite confident and determined when dealing with them, learning how to bond with them and train them,” CPL Falconer said.
“Physical strength is important too; not in the sense that you need to be a gym junkie, but more that it takes a lot of core strength and balance.. you’ll never experience anything like having a dog run at you full pelt and with everything they have, and it can be quite a challenge to balance yourself, stay on your feet and be safe while doing it.”
During her eight-year career, CPL Falconer has gone from being a MWD Handler and instructing MWD Initial Employment Training courses to her current position within the Breeding Cell.
Her day to day duties in this role includes anything from choosing brood bitches, artificial insemination or even assisting veterinarians with the birthing process, to raising and training potential MWD’s and finding foster homes for them during the training process.
With eight litters being born this year and one more on it’s way, CPL Falconer has her hands full – literally. Speaking to her in late October, she was hand feeding 11 Belgian Malanois pups as their mother had gone through a C-Section and was not cooperating or bonding with the newborns.
Even though her job can require long and stressful days, it’s made that extra bit special considering she works in the only breeding and development facility for the Air Force. It also allows her to build a special bond with the dogs, just like she did with her foster pup Cyra.
“I was in here on the floor when her Mum gave birth to her,” CPL Falconer said. “I got very attached to her so I’ve taken her on as another foster pup where I will raise her and do all of her development work until she’s ready to go and be a Military Working Dog.”
The Air Force Facebook page has recently run a competition during #Dogtober to name the current litter of puppies that CPL Falconer is looking after. The winning names will be revealed this month, so be sure to visit facebook.com/AusAirForce/.