Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Success Story: Willow & Tyler

I adopted Willow when I knew my old search dog Valorie (Age 13-1/2) was showing major signs of needing to retire. Arthritis, blindness, hard of hearing etc. Willow was about a year old when I adopted her from PNW Border Collie Rescue. I started working Willow along side Valorie on our searches almost immediately.

Willow's energy level helped alot. She could handle the rigorous searches in the deep snow in the mountains, the rough hot terrain we faced in the jungles and desert searches. She loves the water and has also made a great water Search and Rescue (SAR) dog as well.

Willow's training consisted of dog obedience, agility, gun training (as we carry side arms), object identification for forensic scent evidence searches (guns, knifes, blood, body fluids, keys, wallets, clothing, body tissue, hair fibers, teeth etc.). As an air scenting dog she does great.

Her best attribute is her gentleness and her determination to work. She tracked a missing dog from NW Seattle 12 miles to Edmonds where we found the dog alive. The dog had been missing for two weeks.

She has documented finding 4 dead humans in water drownings, one suicide victim, and today she located what we believe is a female victim which had been buried in a murder case for over 41 years. We're waiting for detectives to dig up the site.

She's traveled to 20 states and two countries to do her SAR work. Willow has documented 1702 search cases with 404 documented finds of missing persons and lost pets.

When SAR Dog Valorie died, Willow became very depressed. Her play and work buddy was gone. Val died in my arms at age 15 from a stroke on Jan. 9 , 09.

In her lifetime Val documented over 5,800 search and rescue calls around the world to include Oklahoma City Bombing, Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, both of the Turkey earthquakes in 1999, along with finding hundreds of missing persons and lost pets all around the world. Val was rescued from Corvallis border collie rescue in 1994.

I adopted Mr Tyler from PNW Border Collie Rescue in February 2009. What a character and CHALLENGE is he! First he had absolutely NO confidence in himself. He was scared of his shadow, and attached himself to my side from day one. Willow and Tyler love each other to death. They play day and night when they are both not working or training.

To date, Mr Tyler has documented 279 search cases with 61 documented finds of missing persons and lost pets.

Tyler got to ride in a kayak for the first time two weeks ago and he wears his life vest and loves the water now. Can't keep him out of it. He also has grown to be a emotionally secure dog. Someone reached into the truck the other day and Tyler nearly took his arm off. Warning him first to back off or else.

He has one trait that is different from all the other search dogs I've trained. Tyler like Valorie will actually talk to me. He carries on a conversation. I'll ask him a question and he'll talk up a storm. If I sing (I can't sing) Tyler will step in and help me out.

When we find the people dead I often do the death notifications and both Willow and Tyler have helped me out greatly with the grieving families. They hold Willow and Tyler and cry and get their comfort from both of the dogs.

These guys are wonderful. They have helped me deal with losing Valorie (My partner of 15 years and my girlfriend of 3 years left my side because of my work) So these two little partners have been a saving grace so to speak. They are quite the comics but when needed are both huge HERO's in my work, my life and the lives they've been able to save since they started their work.

Harry Oakes SAR Dog Coordinator
International K-9 Search and Rescue Services.
email: searchdog@iinet.com
Web: www.k9sardog.com

CLICK HERE To view a video interview with Harry and his dogs Willow and Tyler