It was the first search for new member Axl of the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue (CVGSAR) K9 team on Saturday, and it turned out to be a success for the golden retriever.
CVGSAR sent a couple of its K9 units south to assist the Peninsula Emergency Measures Organization (PEMO) with a search for a missing 75-year-old woman on the Saanich Peninsula on Saturday. Ruizhen Wu had been missing since last Thursday before she was tracked down with the help of K9 unit.
“That was Axl’s first search as a certified dog,” said Paul Berry, president of CVGSAR.
PEMO said on Twitter that the woman was seen about 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11, in the Cordova Bay area and confirmed a day later that she had been found. Berry estimates the K9 teams had been out searching for a couple of hours and said the planning team had done a good job of defining the search area in the previous days based on a statistical analysis of lost person behaviour.
Berry said this was a mutual aid situation where they were able to assist another search team by providing the K9 support.
“It was really just our dog resources. Two of our dog teams went down to assist in the search,” he said. “It’s certainly normal practice in the province when you have a large-scale search that you ask for mutual aid from neighbouring teams.”
K9 member Chris Smith brought along Axl and another golden retriever, Solo, while another member brought along her black lab.
Berry said the missing woman, who has Alzheimer’s, disappeared in a wooded area and probably travelled well over a kilometre into fairly heavy bush.
“Often, subjects with dementia wander until they get stuck,” he said.
CVGSAR has had multiple K9 teams for about six years, Berry said, with Smith having had three dogs take part over the years. On its website, the organization outlines the process dogs go through before they can become certified search dogs. This includes an assessment when they are between six months and two years old. Dogs and trainers are also validated annually.