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Valley search-and-rescue K9s saving lives in extreme heat

Valley Search & Rescue dog
Search and Rescue K9s
Posted at 9:31 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 08:12:59-04

Search-and-rescue efforts are becoming more and more common as extreme heat hammers Arizona -- and Maricopa K9 Search & Rescue is prepared to answer those calls.

"You ready? Go find," says AJ Achilles, K9 training officer with Maricopa K9 Search & Rescue.

During search-and-rescue missions, every second and every sniff counts.

"As soon as she's in the mode, nothing distracts her. That is what's a big part of these working dogs, that they have that drive to say, 'I want this no matter what. I need to work as hard as I need to get it,'" says Achilles.

It takes about two years for the dogs to get certified to be ready to help in all conditions, including the extreme heat.

Rescue calls come in at any time and anywhere throughout Maricopa County. "Obviously, we live in an extreme environment and extreme environments require extreme measures to be safe in the heat. We need to be deployed out there as fast as we possibly can to hopefully save that person," says Achilles.

A coordinator with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office assigns search areas, splitting those up among available dog teams.

Kenai works hard as an air scent dog.

"She's found people half a mile away. If we're in the right type of wind, your skin lets go of these skin grafts and they fall off, they float in the air. She smells that and picks it up, runs us to them," says Achilles.

The K9s encounter plenty of obstacles like cacti, rattlesnakes, and javelinas, but mainly the heat.

"If she's working 30 minutes in this heat, it's time to put her in some shade, get some water into her and let her relax and rest. But it comes down to the handler knowing their dog," says Achilles.

Kenai trains twice a month with the rest of the team. They all work as volunteers and run solely off donations.

To help, you can visit their website.