Logo Header

Dog of the Day

Lady- Wilderness Search and Rescue

by Carie Broecker


Imagine that you are lost, tired, and confused. You are not quite sure why it is taking so long to get home or why you cannot remember exactly where home is. You just keep moving forward, hopeful that you are headed in the right direction.

Imagine that you are lost, tired, and confused. You are not quite sure why it is taking so long to get home or why you cannot remember exactly where home is. You just keep moving forward, hopeful that you are headed in the right direction.

Just when you start thinking you cannot take another step, a big friendly Golden Retriever comes running up to you. She is so excited to see you, like you are her long-lost friend. Excited and barking, she stays with you. Then she runs off. A short while later she comes back and stays with you again. You find comfort in her presence as if she knows something you do not. And then she runs off. She soon returns with someone who has come to take you home.


This is just what happened to Gilbert, an Alzheimer’s patient, in November of 2006. Gilbert was a patient at the Veterans Medical Center in Fort Ord. His son had taken him for a doctor’s appointment. As they were leaving, he went inside to talk with the doctor and asked his dad to wait for him. Gilbert soon forgot he was waiting for his son and started walking home. He was missing for 36 hours and wandered eight miles before Lady finally found him.

Lady is the senior search dog with Monterey County Search and Rescue Dogs (MCSARD), a nonprofit organization. Their mission is to train volunteer handlers and dogs to the standards of the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) in area-search, cadaver-search, and tracking. MCSARD dogs and their handlers are ready to assist the CalEMA, law enforcement, and any other entity during a search for lost persons.
Lady’s handlers and guardians are Sharon and Jim LaCalamita, two of the founders of MCSARD. Jim was volunteering with the Sheriff’s Emergency Assistance Team back in 1997 when young Christina Williams went missing. Jim operated the command post at the time, putting in 18-hourdays during the intense search for Christina. This was the first time Jim had been exposed to search and rescue dogs, and he was impressed and intrigued by their speed, efficiency and accuracy.

Search and rescue dogs are extremely valuable in clearing larges areas very quickly. One dog can clear 100 acres in just 90 minutes. This would take several humans several hours to search. By clearing, searchers determine where the lost person is NOT located. Through the clearing process, the search is narrowed down repeatedly to hopefully zero in on where that missing person actually IS located.

Sadly, after four weeks of intense searching, Christina Williams was not found. Her body was found one year later in an area that had been searched by humans but was not searched by dogs.

The experience with the Christina Williams case is what motivated Jim to start doing canine search and rescue work. His wife, Sharon, picked Lady out of a litter when she was just eight weeks old. At four months, she began her search and rescue training. Now at the age of ten, Lady has become a role model for young search and rescue dogs to emulate. She sets an example for both new dogs and their handlers on perfect search technique.

In addition to being on alert 24/7 in the event of an emergency requiring their assistance, the MCSARD dogs and their handlers also do presentations to school children teaching them how to be safe in the wilderness.


The MCSARD team trains every Sunday on old Fort Ord property with permission from the Fort Ord Reuse Authority. During a training session, several volunteers are hidden across the acreage. Many of the volunteers are students earning community service hours.

More experienced dogs may be asked to search for someone ten acres, away while the less-experienced dogs may be asked to search for someone located just three acres away. Some of the dogs are “nose to the ground” dogs who excel in tracking and following a particular scent. Others are air detection dogs who work with their noses in the air to pick up scent on the air currents.

For the dogs it is a game, and they are playing for a reward. Lady works for a tennis ball—her favorite toy!

The MCSARD dogs and handlers are ready to help with both local searches and those out of the area, as necessary. This is an invaluable resource.

MCSARD is a nonprofit organization dedicated to training volunteer handlers and dogs to CalEMA standards in area-search, cadaver-search, and tracking, to be ready to assist the CALEMA, law enforcement, and any other entity during any search for lost persons. To inquire about training with MCSARD or volunteering to hide in the wilderness during training exercises visit www.mcsard.org or call 831-784-1115.


In Memoriam


We were saddened to receive the news that both Lady and her guardian, Jim Lacalamita, passed away in June after brief illnesses.

Lady and Jim were two remarkable souls, both giving of themselves to help others. They will be greatly missed.

Donations in their memory can be made to:

Lady Fund
P.O. Box 10519
Salinas, CA 93912
(831) 784-1115


advertisement advertisement
zazzle button