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Search and rescue dogs join department

POSTED: April 29, 2009 4:00 a.m.
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Tim Satterfield's black lab Maddie is one of five search and rescue dogs currently serving Dawson County Emergency Services.

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When a person is lost, four legs are often better than two.

“Speed is the key in trying to find the people before the weather changes or it gets dark,” said Deputy Chief of Dawson County Emergency Services

Tim Satterfield, who recently received approval to move forward with plans to develop a search and rescue K-9 unit for emergency services.

Satterfield’s black lab Maddie is one of five search and rescue dogs currently serving Dawson County Emergency Services.

“The dogs can cover more ground than we can in a quicker amount of time,” Satterfield said.

Last year, emergency services personnel helped locate nine people lost in Dawson County. Many were hiking and lost their way through the county’s vast forests, while one hunter got turned around on his own property.

Several of those lost last year were children, including a young man diagnosed with a mental illness.

“By the time we found him, he’d been gone all night,” Satterfield said.

Until recently, Dawson County depended on outside agencies to provide K-9 units when a person was lost.

DeKalb County, where Lt. Danny Speaks worked before joining Dawson County Emergency Services, brought in units and assisted local personnel several times last year.

But Satterfield said the need is too great to have to depend on other agencies.

“We want to make sure we can find these people before they get in trouble. You have a better chance at recovery if you find them early,” he said.

Emergency services personnel plan to fund the program through fundraising efforts, including holding boot drives specifically for search and rescue unit.

The money raised will fund certifications and training for both the dogs and their handlers, and help the team purchase supplies.

The team will not need to build or purchase a kennel for the dogs, which go home every night and live with their handlers.

“These dogs are like part of our families,” said Speaks, who added he has spent close to a $1,000 of his own money to train his black lab, Cody.

“He’s not as important as my baby, but he’s right up there.”

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