The day BellaRose and Daisy have trained most of their lives for has finally arrived — the day they can officially use their noses to help agencies such as the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office.
After more than two years of official training, the beagle and the English shepherd have been certified as search and rescue dogs.
“They are dialed in,” said Patti Stormont, Daisy’s owner and member of the Skagit County K9 Search and Rescue Team.
Both dogs are certified in trailing, meaning they have been taught to track a person’s scent, Stormont said.
“Our dogs scent a certain person’s odor and only that odor,” Stormont said. “They can go through a crowd of people and stay on that odor.”
BellaRose is also certified in human remains detection, said Angelyn Gates, the team’s leader and BellaRose’s owner.
BellaRose and Daisy are the first dogs in the past several years to be part of the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team, Gates said.
While Gates, Stormont, BellaRose and Daisy are volunteers on the team, state law requires all search and rescue teams to operate under the supervision of a local sheriff’s office.
“Dogs are pretty crucial, especially for missing persons,” Skagit County Undersheriff Chad Clark said. “They’re crucial elements to help the search party.”
While the Sheriff’s Office does have a K-9 unit, the unit’s dog — Espo — is not trained for search and rescue or human remains detection, Clark said.
Having a dog that is trained in such areas can be beneficial for search and rescue teams, especially because it can give searchers an idea of where to quickly deploy other resources such as drone units.
“It could be an immediate help,” Clark said.
BellaRose and Daisy can also be used by departments other than the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office.
Although the dogs have completed their certifications, their work is far from over, Gates said.
Gates and Stormont continue to train their dogs two times a week — no matter the weather.
“People go missing in bad weather,” Gates said.
The team is still looking for volunteers to go “missing” in order to help the dogs hone their skills.
Gates and Stormont said helping the dogs train can be as simple as volunteering to go for a walk or to a friend’s house while one of the dogs tracks their scent.
“We have people that go missing from their homes,” Gates said.
Gates and Stormont are hoping to add to their team new volunteers, even ones who don’t have dogs such as BellaRose and Daisy, Gates said.
“You don’t have to have gone through what Patti and I have gone through to help,” she said.
That could be by volunteering to get lost, or by joining the field team when the dogs are deployed, she said.
Those interested in volunteering are asked to check out the team’s website at sck9sar.org.