EDMONDS, Wash. — What Keb, a 12-year-old labrador “finds” isn’t what a typical dog is looking for. Keb is trained in search and rescue and specializes in finding human remains.
“She’s a pretty serious dog. I would say a soulful dog,” said Suzanne Elshult, Keb’s trainer and owner.
Keb works on training every day, whether it’s on a hike or sniffing out a hidden tooth. When Keb hits on something, she sits to let Suzanne know what she found.
Keb has been on 100 missions with half a dozen finds. One of those missions was the Oso landslide, which was the deadliest in U.S. history.
“The first few days working in rubble, then working in water, to working in mud that was waist deep,” said Elshult.
Keb was one of the first dogs deployed, and the last to leave. Forty-three people tragically died. Keb found three of them.
“Out of all the missions I've been on, it's definitely life-changing. It's the kind you hope you're only on once in a lifetime right,” said Elshult.
Keb has also helped families find their missing loved ones, including a man that was missing for nearly a decade.
“The family had probably been waking up every morning for 9 years feeling the need to go search and probably got some resolution. I don't think families ever get closure,” said Elshult.
Keb is in the running with six other search and rescue dogs to be named American Humane's Hero Dog of the Year which is a nationwide competition.
Elshult hopes that honor can shine a light on the work these dogs do– which is all volunteer-led.
"I just want to bring awareness and inspire people to pursue their dream even if there are obstacles. I found my passion in my forties,” said Elshult.
After watching dogs comb through the rubble in the aftermath of 9/11 it prompted Elshult to get into this line of work, which can be emotional but she has Keb as her consoler.
“She’s been everything that I dreamed of, and she’s helped me become a better person as well,” said Elshult.
All of Keb’s missions are told in a book titled, “A Dog’s Devotion: True Adventures of a K9 Search and Rescue Team.” The book is written by Suzanne Elshult and fellow search and rescue volunteer Guy Mansfield. The book will be released on Oct. 1.
You can help Keb, by voting for her to become Hero Dog of the Year online until Sept. 13.