Peoria Dog Collars National Award for Rescue Work
By NICK COTE, DAILY NEWS-SUNYour West Valley
Through a mix of hard work, dedication and some anonymous fans, Keahi, a 7-year-old Belgian Tervuren and her owner Kristi Smith won the American Kennel Club’s Award for Canine Excellence in the search and rescue category.
Smith, a professional dog trainer from Peoria, was unaware that they had even been nominated and was taken aback when she found out they’d won the national award.
“I’ve worked nine search-and-rescue dogs, but she’s a special girl. I almost cried when they told me she’d won,” she said. “I’m honored that someone thought so highly of her.”
Smith is a member of Arizona Search Track and Rescue. She has worked with search and rescue dogs for 27 years and logs around 43 searches annually with Keahi, who is certified in air-scent, avalanche, cadaver, evidence and human remains searches. The duo has traveled to nine states as well as Canada to help law enforcement and other search and rescue agencies.
“They’re a really valuable resource that I think is underutilized,” Smith said. “Every day I’m amazed at their capabilities. There is no scent game you can play to trick them.”
It takes more than 2,000 hours of training to prepare a search-and-rescue dog for certification, plus ongoing training and exercise to keep them sharp.
Despite the effort, these dogs aren’t all work and no play.
“At the end of the day no matter how long they’ve been working they just want to jump up and lick your face,” Smith said.