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Search and Rescue Dog remembered
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Cody was part of the family.


"He was a great dog for my kids," said Cody's owner and handler Danny Speaks. "I have an 8-year-old named Olivia and a 2-year-old named Charlie. They helped me with him, and it gave us something to do together."


But Cody was much more than just a pet. He was a trained search and rescue dog, a fine-tuned K-9 that assisted in locating missing persons all over the state of Georgia, including in Dawson County.


He was part of the Dawson County Emergency Services K-9 Strike Team, which is attached to the Georgia Search and Rescue team (GSAR).


Cody died of natural causes on July 27, at home with the Speaks family.


Cody came to Dawson County in 2008 under the careful training of Danny Speaks, who is now the assistant chief and training officer of the Dawson County Emergency Services training division.


Speaks started training dogs in 2007, after seeing people go missing and recognizing the need for search and rescue dogs in the area.


Speaks bought Cody when he was eight weeks old, and had him his whole life.


"I bought him from a breeder," Speaks said, "He was my first search dog, and it took a year's worth of training for him to do what I asked- we learned together the search and rescue game."
Speaks said that he and Cody worked many difficult cases together as a team.


"We worked many very difficult cases," Speaks said. "Even ones where people said there was no way that he would find something, yet after a little digging he came up with what we were looking for."


Speaks said Cody was part of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Georgia Body Recovery Team, and was instrumental in search and rescue missions all over the southeast, including Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and other parts of Georgia.


Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford said the team has put a tremendous amount of time into training the dogs, and they have contributed greatly over the years to missing persons cases or in hunting down evidence.


In 2013 the K-9 Strike Team received the Marguerite Brock Rescue Award for best all-around rescue program from the Emergency Management Association of Georgia. Recently, the K-9 team received a $13,000 grant from Governor Nathan Deal for the upcoming year to help the county with the cost of maintenance.


Today the team, described by Speaks as an extracurricular project, has four dogs that they have trained or are in the process of training. One dog in particular is new: a German shorthaired pointer, who Speaks named Gravedigger, or ‘Digger' for short.


Though Speaks said he is excited for the new K-9 and the journey ahead, he still misses his buddy Cody.


"He was a wonderful partner, a heck of a dog," Speaks said. "He worked hard for a lot of years, through a lot of adversity. He lived hard and did what he wanted to do, but when it was time to work, he worked. I'm still real proud of him."


Speaks had Cody cremated so his remains could stay close.


"I know he's looking down at me, barking like crazy," Speaks said. "I'll see him again...be a while though."