Delta County Search and Rescue is mourning the death of K-9 Millie, who died this month of cancer.
Millie was born in May 2008 and was adopted by Peggy Woodis. When Millie was three years old, they began training together for search and rescue operations.
Most dogs used in SAR are air scent dogs. Off leash, they go find the scent, then run back to the handler to "tell" them of their find.
Millie was a trailing dog, which DCSAR commander Kim Shea says is much more work because the dog is on leash the whole time and the handler has to follow no matter the terrain. "Peggy and Millie overcame the challenge and became certified in two years."
After obtaining certification in 2014, Millie became a valued member of the search and rescue team.
Shea explains, "Peggy had to travel to the Eastern Slope to participate in most of the training exercises, which was expensive and put many miles on her vehicle, which is not reimbursed by SAR or the sheriff's office. So volunteering to train a dog is a huge commitment of time and money. The reward is great when the dog has a find, but it doesn't happen as often as people might think. A trailing dog needs to be on scene within 24 to 48 hours after the person becomes missing and also must have a scent article from the missing person's belongings or from the vehicle."
Weather conditions in the ground and the air affect the dog's ability to detect scent. "There are many factors in finding a person that many do not realize," Shea said.
"Peggy is not sure she will try to get another dog and go through all the training that is required to get certified, so it is a huge loss for our team and our community. We do have another member that has dogs but they are not certified or as involved in our team as much as Peggy is. Many people think they want to have a SAR dog until they realize the commitment to training their dog every week year around."
Delta County Search and Rescue currently has 17 volunteer members and operates under the umbrella of the Delta County Sheriff's Office.