Search and rescue K–9 teams most often help search for lost or missing people. Radar was a search and rescue dog with a sheriff's department. I've met with his handler, Lt. Mitch Ellicott numerous times as Mitch is a very experienced handler who is passionate about his dogs and his work. While I was able to tell Radar's story in the Search and Rescue Dog Heroes book, I never had the opportunity to meet him. During the writing of the book, Radar passed away. The book is dedicated to Lt. Ellicott and to the memory of his K–9 Radar.
K–9 Radar during a training session.
As I continued to be in touch with Mitch during the many stages of writing the book he told about his new
K–9, Blaze that he was training. Three months into training Blaze, Mitch invited me to come and watch Blaze perform a training exercise in the woods. How could I not go?
A fellow officer went into the woods while we played fetch with Blaze in a nearby field. After about ten minutes, Mitch put Blaze's working vest on, brought Blaze to the edge of the woods, and gave him the search command. I followed Mitch and Blaze into the woods not on a marked path. It was only a few minutes before I could tell Blaze had caught the scent of the hidden officer. In less than ten minutes Blaze located the officer crouched down behind a huge rock. During school visits I ask kids what they think is Blaze's reward for his finds. Many guess a dog treat or food. They giggle when I tell them it's a tennis ball since this is Blaze's favorite toy. Mitch explained that Blaze only had a few months of training and he would continue to train him to perform more complex tasks in the months ahead. I appreciated that Mitch invited me to watch a search. It helped me understand how these dogs work by seeing it first-hand. I like to tell the kids about my trek through the woods. I think it's important for children to know that writers don't just do their research in the library or while sitting at their computers.
While writing this series I tried to use as many primary sources as possible. In doing so, I not only wrote well-researched books, I met some amazing dogs and their handlers who are all truly heroes to me.
Me presenting the Search and Rescue Dog Heroes
book to Lt. Mitch Ellicott and K–9 Blaze.