Now that the 4-day John Rogerson Canine CSI event is behind, and I have had an entire week to rest and get my feet back on the ground, I am finally ready to sit down and write a little bit about it. I will start with a part of the back-story. Behind the Scenes.

This is a collection of some of the clues our CSI Group
had gathered during day 3 and 4 and tried to piece together
to solve a murder mystery.

I was very excited going into the two back-to-back seminars with John Rogerson. But the honest truth is that the real anticipation (for me, personally) was for the second part of his little tour here: the hands-on Canine Crime Scene Investigation course – hosted in the gorgeous National Park I get to call home: Banff, Alberta. Smack in the middle of the gorgeous Canadian Rockies.

The lead up to part of that excitement is that the course had been in the making for a very long time – over one and a half years. When I initially had heard back from John about the possibility to bring him to Canada and was communicating with him about options for the CSI course –  I had presented him with three different hosting options and locations (two of them being in the outskirts of Calgary) – the third one; by far the most difficult to pull off in terms of permits and and logistics – was Banff. 

Which one did he get excited over? 
So it needed to happen.

And it did. Over the course of several months, through many phone calls, meetings face to face as well as emails and more meetings: permissions, permits were granted and contracts were signed and indoor- as well as outdoor options were scouted. A plan with multiple back-up-plans started to take form and things seemed to be in absolute control. Working with not only Town Officials, but also Wildlife Management Specialists from Parks Canada, our main concern for having 18 dog-handler teams as well as 12 auditors, training outdoors, was to have plans and then back up plans for avoiding clashes with wildlife. 

June in Banff, is elk calving season – and the interesting effect in nature with newborn baby elk is that they tend to draw in bears – who are hungry after hibernating for the winter. We certainly didn’t want to put a group of dogs on a collision course with a bear hunting for breakfast…

But everything had come together. Every necessary plan seemed to be in place and the outdoor training options, in turn, had alternate back-up-plans in case we would need to move the group. Hosting a multiple-day dog seminar in Banff was actually going to happen! 

By Wednesday June 19th, after finishing up a 3-day Lecture course in Calgary, we were in the Mountains and we were touring John and his wife Judy around all the different locations in and around Banff. My dear friend Catherine Thomas had already joined us from New Brunswick for the Lecture Course in Calgary and stayed on through the CSI Course to lend a much-needed hand. Another friend, and participant in the CSI course Susan Gottselig, had so graciously offered to host Judy and John in her home and now joined us all for the site visits. 

It was a rather grey and rainy day. But we were all sporting our rain gear and none of the four dogs we brought along for the outing seemed to mind. John was excited about the possibilities seeing all the places; photos were snapped to map out the crime scenes and the story was coming together (although kept secret from Catherine, Susan and myself who were going to be participants in the course). As the rain kept pouring down, we said “See you tomorrow morning at the Fenlands Rec Centre!” to Susan, Judy and John…and Catherine and myself headed into a final night of some last minute prep and loading the van with seminar snacks, water bottles, props and dog gear.

The rain kept pouring. We didn’t really think much about it that night. But as I lay in bed with the bedroom window open, I heard it all night. Relentless, hard and persistent. All night long it Poured.

Very early Thursday morning, June 20th I woke up to a message on my phone from one participant who had planned on driving in to Banff that morning. The message was short and got me right out of bed with amazing speed: “The highway from Calgary to Banff is closed.” Did that ever get me going! Onto weather channels on the internet and a quick glance through news pretty quickly filled me in: there was flooding and the highway between Calgary and Canmore had already been closed — and now — the section between Canmore (where John and Judy were hosted at Susan’s house!) and Banff was also in danger of being closed. 

That wasn’t pleasant news: the seminar presenter is a pretty substantial part of hosting a seminar – I needed to get John and Judy to Banff asap! 

My phone call to Susan caught her as off-guard as I had been myself to the first news of highway closures. But she didn’t waste a single moment, got the key people in motion and set off in the downpour in her van toward Banff.. crisscrossed the Town of Canmore to get out through rising flood waters everywhere and passed through park gates into Banff moments before that section of highway also closed…

…what we didn’t know then, of course, was that bridges and that section of highway were going to be partially washed out and the highway would be closed and remain closed for the next two days a
nd John, Judy and Susan would now also be stranded in Banff without ways of returning to Canmore…

Further to this; it would involve a serious juggling act to get all the CSI Props from Canmore to Banff in time for us to solve a crime. 

Thursday afternoon’s reality. A walk up there with my iPhone camera captured what was really happening. Semis in a stand-still, parked along the highway by Banff’s Norquay exit – lined up as far as they eye could see. There was no leaving town for anyone at that point..Officially stuck in Banff.

In the end, our Canine CSI Course was hosted through the Great Flood of 2013. Wildlife was the least of our concerns. Out of a sold out and full course with 29 registered participants – all but 4 made it to Banff before the highways closed. As of Thursday June 20th and the official start of the course, we were all stranded in Banff. It was not possible to leave and get out because of highway closures, mudslides and wash-outs all around us. But we were able to stay dry and safe, and the feeling was that “If we are all going to be stuck in Banff together – we might as well be stuck together and doing something we all love: training and working with dogs.”

Dog Training in the beautiful Fenlands Rec Centre – the Curling arena minus the ice surface. Absolutely perfect for a dog training seminar. Very grateful to the Town of Banff for the use of this space! It was (and is) Perfect.

So, despite much chaos that ensued on the outside, the course went ahead. Plans changed many times and then changed yet again. John and Judy continually adapted and flexed with the ever-evolving plans. No content was lost and while we couldn`t get to locations such as Cascade Ponds (flooding made it impossible to get there) nor the Rec Grounds (completely flooded and under water) – we DID get outside and we did enjoy some beautiful scenery right within the Townsite. Overall the feeling was that participants left with big smiles on their faces, they had a great experience – although not exactly in the way that was originally planned.

Now the question that lingers in my own mind is — the next Wags unlimited seminar is Suzanne Clothier`s return in November (Nov 9-11, 2013). How much extra planning and discussion will go in to making sure we`ve discussed all the unlikely natural disasters…in the event and IF..? 
I have a feeling that for myself: I am not able to walk away from this untouched.

Newspaper headlines in the days after the Great Flood. Devastation for many who were directly impacted by water damage. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who suffered loss due to the flooding. We were very fortunate. In the big scheme of things, the stress we experienced during our CSI event was nothing. We were safe and dry. A bit inconvenienced perhaps but able to juggle and change and keep going.

The landscape of much of Southern Alberta has forever been altered due to the floods. I think event planning in my own books is in that same category, too. Forever altered. 
But I would not necessarily say that’s a bad thing 🙂

Lastly a MASSIVE Thank You to all the participants who stuck through it all. You were simply an amazing group of people!! Truly a phenomenal bunch!!
Thanks to John and Judy for continually flexing and re-creating new plans on the fly and just making it happen despite flooding and rain. Thanks to Catherine for all your help and support through the whole event. And Thank you, Susan for stepping in and helping where help was needed! It’s because of big efforts from people with big hearts that it all came together – despite crazy obstacles being thrown in our path.

THANK YOU! You are Amazing!

Judy and John Rogerson, Annette and  her canine sleuth: Maggio after the CSI Course had come to an official and successful close.
What could possibly go wrong?! (LOL)

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  • MtngrrlJul 04, 2013

    Love it Annette, excellent job sharing the story… there are so many unbelievable things that happened during that time. Happy the seminar was still a success 🙂

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