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C.O. K-9 teams back from slide recovery assist


Three canine teams, two from Crook County and one from Deschutes County went to Oso to help find victims of the Oso landslide.

Washington Emergency Management contacted their Oregon counterparts, asking for search and rescue cadaver dogs. A day and a half after receiving the call, Central Oregon mobilized their teams.

The tree teams made it to Oso on Friday, April 4th and quickly got to work in the disaster zone.

“It’s been described as freshly poured concrete, and that’s a very accurate description of it,” Jillian McIntosh, K-9 handler for search and rescue, said Friday of the landslide scene.

The teams had to wait for Washington to ask them to come. Teams can’t just volunteer.

“It was a couple of long weeks,” Lori Blackburn, K-9 handler for search and rescue, said. “We were very aware of the slide, very aware there were dogs working, and we really wanted to be a part of it.”

This was just one of the kinds of disasters these cadaver dogs train for.

“To be able to bring someone home to their family, it’s what I want to do,” Blackburn said.

She and her dog Annie, along with the two other two teams, were given that chance.

The handlers were not allowed to tall NewsChannel 21 whether or not they directly assisted in any human recoveries.

“Most of the area we were working, which was right off (Highway) 530, right there,” McIntosh said. “It was up to our knees, and some areas up to our hip.”

Human handlers are necessary, but it’s the dogs that are there to do the work no human could.

“They’re able to sniff out odors they’re trained for,” McIntosh said.

“Annie was pulling to get out there,” Blackburn said. “It didn’t seem to matter that it was mud and a debris field.”

The dogs train in different conditions, and Blackburn said the dogs could tell they were not in their usual training comfort zone.

It didn’t affect their work, though. Plus, the conditions in Oso, Wash., were different than what they train in in the desert environment of Central Oregon.

“Constantly being wet really zaps their body heat,” McIntosh said.

The dogs and handlers were exhausted, but they worked together to stay safe and healthy.

“It’s her nose,” Blackburn said. “and it’s the training and conditioning that lets her tell us what shes found.”

Blackburn said she as the handler is really there to be the advocate for her dog as she does her job.

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