This is the tale of a search dogs first “Find” as told by Allison Seligman of the Arizona Republic who was fortunate enough to be allowed to tag along with the teams during a recent search.
The Officers and Board of Directors of the American Belgian Tervuren Club are proud to share the news that member Kristi Smith and her Tervuren, Keahi, have won the AKC’s 2012 ACE Award for Search & Rescue.
During her career with Arizona Search Track and Rescue, seven-year-old Keahi (key-ah-hee; Hawaiian for “fire”) has proved to be durable, versatile, and uncannily accurate. Certified in air-scent, avalanche, cadaver, evidence, and human-remains searches, the in-demand Terv has answered the call in nine states and Canada. She and Smith conduct approximately 43 searches a year, logging between 91 and 126 work days a year–a strenuous pace for any search team. Smith and Keahi have found lost children and wandering seniors, led investigators to the bodies of murder victims and those who have drowned (including one find 170 feet under water), and recovered key evidence in criminal investigations.
Congratulations to Kristi Smith and Keahi.
More information on the ACE Awards and Keahi can be found at
By Dan Zeiger, TribuneEast Valley Tribune
With a police dive team in the water behind him, Jerry “Kelly”Snyder stood near the edge of Tempe Town Lake on Thursday and watched with intense, impatient eyes.
The retired federal agent and associate member of Arizona Search, Track and Rescue watched as the crew worked under the Scottsdale Road bridge, the focal point of a search for Willie Jigba, a 24-year-old man that had been missing since Jan. 16.
“I think he’s in here,” Snyder said, turning toward the water.“I just don’t know where. I mean, where else would he be?”
Snyder’s suspicions appeared to be validated on Friday, when Tempe police announced the recovery of a man matching Jigba’s description from the water west of the Scottsdale Road bridge. Police indicated that information from Arizona Search Track and Rescue, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization whose members boast years of law-enforcement experience, was vital in the find.
The group of about 28 members and 22 search dogs has worked about 40 cases a year, at the behest of law-enforcement agencies and families, since it was formed in 1998. Arizona Search Track and Rescue has assisted Mesa police in the search for Hugh Turner, an 85-year-old man who has been missing since Christmas Eve.
Search coordinator Kristi Smith has no law-enforcement experience, having learned the trade while in the Kentucky Search Dog Association, a similar volunteer organization.
“Police know that we are out there to utilize if they need our assistance,” Smith said. “We are another resource that can be used. …
“I enjoy working with the dogs. I enjoy the challenges. There is a big reward in the community-service aspect of it. As a mother and a sister, if one of my loved ones was missing, I would want as many people as possible looking for them.”
Snyder stressed that Arizona Search Track and Rescue does not compete with law enforcement agencies, who typically have no more than a handful of search dogs. Rather, the organization complements the police work.
In the Jigba case, dogs picked up a human scent at Town Lake.
“A couple of agencies don’t use us because they think we want to compete with them. That’s not the case at all,” said Snyder, whose own search organization, Find Me, has partnered with Arizona Search Track and Rescue since 2003. “Call us up; we have 22 dogs. Why come with one or two dogs when you can add eight or 10 more?
“We’re professionals — retired cops, feds, everyone is dedicated. We got no money for what we do, so it’s all for the right reasons that we’re here.”
In January 2004, Arizona Search Track and Rescue was summoned to aid in the hunt for Pedro Corzo, a 35-year-old Del Monte produce executive who disappeared while visiting farms near Dateland. After just two hours of searching, Corzo’s vehicle was located a half-mile from a road in a remote area of western Maricopa County.
About 45 minutes after that, Corzo’s buried body was found by Smith’s dog. Later, three Missouri men were charged with his murder.
“There are more that we find what we are looking for than we don’t,” Smith said. “The live finds are the most rewarding, of course. But if it turns out to be a homicide, in some cases, we can help bring law enforcement the information they need to charge somebody with a crime.”
The organization usually does training exercises four times a week. Smith and her colleagues spend much time fundraising to pay for training and equipment.
But those financial realities, Smith said, have not impacted the group’s readiness.
“If it is a quick call-out, we start sending teams as they become available — two or three to start, then others,” Smith said.“We have people around the state that have to get off work and travel, which can take time.
“But when someone needs to be found, we try to get as many people on the team rounded up for the long haul.”
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.
About Arizona Search Track & Rescue
In Arizona and throughout the nation, trained Search And Rescue (SAR) teams and (SAR) dog teams have consistently proven themselves as a valuable resource to the emergency services community and local law enforcement agencies when confronted with searching urban, wilderness and desert areas as well as locating victims of drowning.
Arizona Search Track and Rescue, Inc. (AZ STaR) was formed to provide to the public, trained airscent and trailing dog/handler teams to assist in locating lost or missing persons. AZ STaR also has dog/handler teams specially trained in Alzheimer’s, cadaver and evidence searches.
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