An Edmonds search and rescue dog is one of two canines from Washington state competing for the American Humane Hero Dog Awards, an annual nationwide competition.
A yellow labrador retriever, Keb is owned by Edmonds resident Suzanne Elshult, a search and rescue (SAR) dog handler. She also serves as president of Cascadia Search and Rescue, an Edmonds-based not-for-profit organization that provides training for K9 SAR teams locally and statewide.
Elshult notes that as a puppy, Keb “was quite a handful. She had unending energy, and she was fearless and willing to take on everything she was asked to do—full speed ahead.” Keb began her training as an air scent dog, to immediately find live victims, and shortly thereafter started training as a dual-purpose human remains detection dog. Within a few years, Keb and Elshult had certified in multiple SAR disciplines, including wilderness air scent and human remains detection, as well as avalanche rescue and first responder disaster.
At age 12, Keb is still actively deploying, although she is approaching the end of her search and rescue career. “We have deployed on over 100 missions together and deployed two weeks over a month-long period in one of the largest disasters in Washington state — the Oso landslide,” Elshult said. The Oso landslide claimed 43 lives, three of which Keb was responsible for finding.
“We’ve searched for the lost on high snowfields of Mount Rainier and found bones that helped solve decades-old crimes,” Elshult wrote in nominating Keb for the American Humane Hero Dog Awards. “We’ve searched for clandestine graves of murder victims. We’ve been called upon to volunteer our services in the dark, the wet, the snow, and cold in the rainforests and rugged mountains of the Pacific Northwest. We’ve searched in urban areas with homeless camps, drug needles and thick blackberry bushes.” The pair even traveled to Scandinavia, where Keb had a find that solved an 18-month-old mystery, Elshult said.
Individuals can vote daily for Keb here to help her move to one of the three dog finalists.
Elshult also noted that Lyons Press will be publishing a book about their adventures in October: A Dog’s Devotion: True Adventures of a K9 Search and Rescue Team.