LCSAR’s search dogs are scent discriminating trained in air or trailing techniques.

Air scent dogs detect scent particles that are carried in the wind from the missing person’s location. Several air scent dogs can be used on a mission to search many different areas at the same time.

Trailing dogs follow the trail of scent particles that were shed by the missing person as they walked. The scent trail is affected by wind and other weather conditions so the dog may not follow the person’s exact footsteps. Rather, the trailing dog may work parallel to the path the individual actually walked.

All LCSAR search dogs are trained to scent discriminate. This means the dogs will ignore the scent of everyone except for the missing person. An article of clothing recently worn by the missing person is presented to the dog and the dog then searches only for the person with the matching scent. Good scent articles are items worn close to the skin, made of natural fibers, and not touched by anyone other than the missing party.

LCSAR’s search dogs are also trained:

• To search bodies of water for drowning victims
• To search avalanche debris for buried victims
• To search for evidence
• To search for trapped victims in disaster situations

Dog and handler teams typically train a minimum of two years prior to demonstrating they can meet the standards through a rigorous testing process.

A trailing dog is expected to be able to follow a trail which is 24 hours old prior to testing. As a part of the testing process, the dog and handler team work a trail that is 1.5 to 2 miles long. The trail is laid the day before the test and is contaminated with the scent of other people.

An air scent dog and handler team demonstrate their skills in three separate tests. They search a large area (1 mile square) demonstrating an efficient strategy, they search at night, and they search for multiple lost persons at the same time.

The search dogs are just one of the many tools used by the search management to find clues of the missing person’s whereabouts. Dogs can be used to rule out areas (the dogs gave no indication that the person is in a given area), dogs can indicate a general direction for the search manager to send other search resources, and the dog teams are sometimes the team that actually finds the missing person.

In Memoriam

SAR Dog Memorial

In honor of those dedicated, enthusiastic, canine companions who loved to do search and rescue as much as their owners did.


The biggest Heroes never look
the way we think they should,
Yet they can do amazing things
no human ever could.
They never think about themselves
no challenge is too great,
They’ll risk their life for anyone
and never hesitate.
They don’t expect a medal for
what comes so naturally,
The only thing they really need
is Love from you and me.
These Heroes are a special breed
God made each one that way,
I didn’t understand until
they buried mine today.

© By: Freda H. Babinski
Written: 8-11-2000
Dedicated to the SAR Heroes



It is with great regret and sadness that we need to announce the passing of another of our SAR dogs. This is truly a sad time for our team, our community and mostly our handler. Please keep them all in your thoughts. Merlin and his handler were one of those consumate professionals. They worked hard, trusted each other, and got results. Merlin and his handler were on over 70 missions in their 10 year career. 70 missions helping to reunite families and loved ones. 70 times when they could have stayed in the comfort of their home. 70 times when they said someone else’s needs were greater. They were a most prolific team and there probably isn’t an inch of Larimer County mountains without Merlin’s paw prints on it.

Those of you who trained and fielded with Merlin know he has always had a lot to say. Now, he says “thank you”-

For hiding during practice
For playing tug of war
For carrying extra water on missions
For trying to keep up
For watching his back
For rubbing his ears
For being a mentor, a teammate, a friend.

Thank YOU Merlin for letting us get to know you.



It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we have lost one of our SAR dogs. For those you who have worked with her, you will know this is a huge loss for our team, her handler and the community as a whole. She was a GREAT TEAM MEMBER. This was sudden and not expected so we all in shock and going through the grieving process.

Abby started her SAR dog training when her puppy ears still flopped over her head. She quickly showed a strong drive and easily mastered the needed skills. As she matured Abby developed a finesse that enhanced those skills and resulted in 2 finds and a number of assists over the course of 60 missions in Larimer County and around our state. Her mission load included several helicopter rides and the ever exciting hot loads. Abby was a lifetime member of our LCSAR family and her passing leaves a big hole in our hearts and the hearts of our canine partners.


German Shepherd

LCSAR recently lost one of our finest. Thunder was a German Shepherd who fielded with her handler, Estelle Purvis, a member of Larimer County Search and Rescue. She was certified in Air Scent for 9 years and helped with many missions. She was a tenacious worker and always supplied excellent information on searches.

In addition to Air Scent, Thunder also trained in Disaster and Water. She was much loved by everyone in LCSAR. Hiding for her was tremendously fun. She would come running in and bark, bark, bark until she decided to go back and get Estelle. She loved searching and playing with her reward toy more than anything.

Thunder will be missed by so many people.


Yellow Labrador Retriever
December 17, 2001 – April 20, 2013

Lakota wore many hats:

Larimer County Search and Rescue
Primary Certifications:
Air Scent
Secondary Certifications:
Human Remains Detection
Lakota was the first to certify in the Colorado SAR Dog community with this combination of skills.

Other volunteer activities include: Rocky Mountain National Park, Outdoor Buddies, Larimer County Parks and Open Space, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Lakota was privileged to have had 100 missions which included search and rescue and special assignments from other agencies.

Lakota was blessed by the Native Americans as a “Spirit Dog” and endowed with many talents to touch human hearts.

You will be severely missed and were loved deeply by many, especially me!!

Jayne Zmijewski

Lakota Yellow Hawk
Mission Accomplished and Completed
End of Watch….
Lakota Yellow Hawk fly free….



German Shepard
3/30/1997 – 11/9/2011


Yesterday morning, with a very heavy heart, I finally said goodbye to Chara, my beloved 14 1/2 year old german shepard dog. She was my working SAR dog, my biggest fan and most loyal companion – a highly driven, stubborn reflection of myself. She lived the fullest life any dog could ever hope for.

We backpacked everywhere from the Sierras to the Cascades to the Colorado Rockies. We found lost hikers, suicide and drowning victims. We worked many memorable missions, including one for a teammate, which I will never forget.

We camped with NASA astronauts and dedicated Columbia Peak to the victims of the Columbia disaster. We taught countless children how not to get lost in the woods. We taught Military Working Dog Handlers canine first aid for the field. She was my “guinea pig” for learning anatomy in vet school, laser and manual therapy, chiropractic, nutritional supplements, and arthritis medications. She was the inspiration for all that I have done professionally as a Veterinarian. No doubt many patients in the future will benefit from what she has taught me.

As those of you who are working dog handlers know, losing your partner is like losing your right arm. They are such a part of you that you only really realize the vacuum left behind until they are gone. Thanks to everyone for your support and friendship over the last 6 months roller coaster ride with her. It is comforting to be surrounded by “dog people” every day who really understand and respect the deep bond that you can develop with an animal.

I will miss her deeply, the stubborn little donkey…

Jen (Mackler) Hebel, Handler

Larimer County Search and Rescue

MRA Honor Guard


Chocolate Labrador Retriever
1998 – 2011

Bear was thirteen. He fielded as a trailing dog for eight of those years and loved every minute of it. He was always a sweet old boy. I’m sure he and Trace are off together now finding lost souls somewhere. – Dan Fanning


Yellow Labrador Retriever
2004 – 2010

I’ll always remember his beautiful face and his goofy approach to life. He was always his own person, and insisted on doing things his way. It never failed to make me chuckle to myself when he would take off on an alert. He brought a lot of smiles to folks in his 6 short years. Trace’s mission is over and he is at peace. – Dan Fanning


Labrador Retriever
November 4, 1996 – April 20, 2009

On April 20, 2009, Rosie departed this world for her final mission. Her mission was simple. To find that place where a search dog has unlimited squirrels to chase, lakes to swim in, rocks to climb on, snow to roll in, and meadows where she can play as much as she wants, work as much as she wants, and nap as often as she wants. And at the end of the day, there is always a little boy to find, who will play with her to both of their hearts content.

Rosie served as a certified search dog for almost 10 years.

Hug and love those that are dear to you, whether they are two-legged or four-legged. And do not take your time together for granted.

As for her final mission: “Rosie! Go find!”

Allen Weaver


Black Labrador Retriever
October 27, 1989 – April 8, 2002

Miriah was a member of Larimer County Search and Rescue from 1990 to 2002 and held Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado certifications in Air Scent, Water, and Evidence.

Came into my life at 7 weeks old, started training at 8 weeks…….. Well over 100 fieldings and her favorite parts were Helicopter and Zodiac rides…….. Next was the Division of Wildlife adventures.. and all of the hugs and pets that came her way…….

The life span of a SAR Dog is like the twinkle of a star in the heavens. The influence of a canine companion and working partner on our soul is forever!

Run free like the wind, “Miriah Weetomp” (Lakota Sioux) Run Free!! Jayne Zmijewski