Search and rescue dog K9 Keb dies at age 14

Suzanne Elshult with Keb

Edmonds’ own K9 Keb, the American Humane Search and Rescue 2022 Hero Dog, has died at the age of 14.

Keb’s adventures were chronicled in the award-winning bestseller A Dog’s Devotion: True Adventures of a K9 Search and Rescue Team. Keb and her owner — Edmonds resident Suzanne Elshult — spent over 13 years of active service in wilderness search and rescue. During that time, they deployed on over 100 missions with multiple important finds — most notably during the 2014 Oso landslide.

Deploying at Oso “was the most life-changing deployment for us and many others,” Elshult wrote in a tribute to Keb. “Working side by side with families, excavators, in rubble and 70-feet-deep mud, deploying on marshmasters and more, changed the course of our search and rescue journey together. Together, you and I became devoted to bringing answers to families left behind, knowing that while we may never bring closure, we sometimes bring answers.”

“I am so grateful to have been able to wake up every morning with a purpose and making magic with you for  14 1/2 years,” Elshult said. “All that time you could not do your work without me and I could not do mine without you. We were and will always be a team.”

Last year, Keb retired from dashing through the woods, but found a new, less-physically-demanding pasttime as a certified Historical Human Remains Detection (HHRD) K9.

In this new role, Keb used her nose and specialized training to find old burials, unmarked graves and scattered human bones. According to Elshult, in recent years HHRD K9s are playing an important role in both criminal “cold cases” and in archeological work, such as locating ancient remains and unmarked graves. On these types of projects, Elshult and Keb often worked hand in hand with archeologists, historians and tribal liaisons.

“I think you and I were destined to start the work we have been doing in recent years,” Elshult said in her tribute. “It is not a coincidence that you were the first dog we deployed on the very first Native American on-reservation boarding school in the United States, helping locate the unmarked burials of children that never returned home to their families. This is also where you closed your career as an amazing search dog with a final deployment in 2023.

“You have taken your last breaths in our arms surrounded by love,” Elshult wrote. “You are loved by so many, having dedicated yourself to serving all of us ‘hoomans’ your whole life.”

Those who would like to honor Keb’s legacy can make a donation to Cairn Canine Detection, the nonprofit organization Elshult has formed to continue the work at Native American boarding schools and old cold cases.

You can watch a tribute video to Keb here.

  1. I have known Keb since she was just a little ball of yellow fluff destined for a career in Search and Rescue. I have deployed on many missions alongside Suzanne and Keb. Keb was truly a once in a lifetime dog and I am grateful to have been a part of her life for the past 14 years.

  2. It’s both so sad and so cool that we’re celebrating Keb today. Wow, what a dog! And Suzanne I can’t thank you enough for the stable and nurturing environment you provided her.

  3. Suzanne, although I never met her, I enjoyed reading about her and watching videos featuring the two of you over the years. What an amazing service you provided to the community! As a dog owner, I can relate to the loss of a dear friend you’ve had for so many years. It must be doubly hard to lose your partner in your hard-working, talented team!

    As you say in your tribute video, ” Run FREE Kebbie!” Thanks for sharing her with all of us.

  4. RIP Keb and thank you for your service, devotion, humor and affection to your human mom. With you in her life, you both fulfilled many missions and always came out of it with a good story. Thank you, Suzanne for sharing and we all know it takes years to get over the loss of a companion pet, so my prayers and Spike’s woofs are sent your way.

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