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Judy Britton, K-9 Handler

When my Team Commander forwarded an email about a Lost Pet Recovery Service seeking a Search and Rescue K-9 Handler with a background in Law Enforcement and Communications, my seemingly scattered skill sets slipped into alignment – a perfect match. It was as an Orange County Deputy Sheriff that I first learned search and investigative techniques. I taught OCSD Academy classes in Communications & Public Relations. As a Charter Member of the Riverside Emergency Animal Rescue System (REARS – those lacking a sense of humor need not apply!) I gained experience with the evolving national Incident Command System and learned to handle and transport an exotic array of animals. Training gained as a member of the K9 Search & Rescue Team’s California Human Remains Detection Division enhanced my abilities as a K-9 Handler, paving the road to Field Certification with New Mexico Search and Rescue. Search K-9 Melanie & I honed our skills at SAR conferences throughout the Western United States: SAR-City in California, AZK9CON in Arizona, ESCAPE in New Mexico, SAR-CON and NASAR in Nevada.

Though my initial reaction to the email had been “Finally, now I know what I want to do when I grow up!” making the transition was still a tough decision. In the final analysis, I realized that there were plenty of people searching for missing humans, but frighteningly few searching for lost animals. Since FAR more animals go missing each year than humans, we opted to change paths, and the decision has felt right every step of the way. Though challenging, the work is always rewarding, and our lives are daily enriched by our clients – their fierce dedication to finding a missing pet is an ongoing testament to the strength of the human heart and the incredible bond shared with a beloved animal.

I am a member of the National Search Dog Alliance and National Association for Search and Rescue. A great lover of travel, I am blessed as a K-9 Handler to have traveled throughout the Western United States.

Southern Belle Melanie, Search K-9

Since redirecting our efforts from Human Search & Rescue to Lost Animal Recovery in July 2011, we have worked over 250 cases. A Craig’s List rescue at 12 weeks, Mellie’s stellar performance in a tracking class as a pup begat an invitation to join Search & Rescue when a 17-year SAR veteran observed her conduct and explained that she hadn’t seen a nose that keen and a brain that solid – in the same dog – for many years. Mellie is a German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Rhodesian Ridgeback mixed-breed with an incredibly strong work ethic and a playful personality.

Baron Von Zeppelin, Search K-9

Zeppelin is also a Craig’s List rescue whose nose has proved his forte. He is a German Shepherd, Border Collie, English Hound, Greyhound, lovable mongrel. Zep (aka Houdini) possesses an intelligence surpassed only by his agility; he can jump any six-foot fence flat-footed. Initially, I was a bit dismayed during our second training session when he blew past several small training targets – instead opting to make a bee-line straight to an actual cat we had not known was present in the area. Way to go, Zep!