Meet Cancer Treatment Grant Recipient: SAR Dog Alley

Alley has been active in Search & Rescue (SAR) since 2000, participating successfully in both national and regional searches for missing persons.

She and her partner, Heather Roche, Bay Area Recovery Canines President, are on a volunteer human remains detection team, BARC, as well as the Maryland Task Force 1 which is a FEMA USAR task force.

Bay Area Recovery Canines (BARC) is a canine search and recovery team used by authorities in human remains detection & recovery efforts. Their members are experienced handlers coming from the wilderness and FEMA search & rescue community who also specialize in working cadaver dogs.

They assist agencies in missing persons or evidence searches for: Land–remains above ground, buried, disarticulated, in buildings, or debris/rubble; Water–drownings in a pond, lake, or river; Disaster– Natural or man-made disasters for live find or for human remains; and also cold cases, fire scenes, or HRD evidence.

Sadly, we learned about this hard-working family, when in July 2008, an application arrived for one of our Working Dog Cancer Treatment Grants due to Alley's diagnosis of synovio sarcoma  in her left elbow. Here is Alley's story as told by his loving partner and mom, Heather.

Ego Alley was born in October 1998 and at 7 weeks old, she was picked to be my next SAR dog. She had a rough start in life with some orthopedic issues.

Most thought she should not work, including me. I tried making her a pet but she refused to just be a pet so I decided she should be allowed to work as long as she was able to and willing to.

She has so much personality and so much driveher whole being is about being happy to work. Luckily her talent is equal with her desire. With Alley, I don¹t train herI merely LET her work. She is the driving force behind her career.

Nothing stops this little happy dog! She works without giving any thought to anything else happening around her. She works even without being given a command because finding sources is part of her core being.

She is unbelievable to watch. Searching is what she was born to do. There is a talent and driving force

I have never seen in any other SAR dog (I¹ve been doing this for 19 years and have trained 5 of my own SAR dogs, plus helped hundreds of others)!

I can¹t help but think at this point, that this special dog came into my household to do what she has done for our community and for our nation when they needed her skills and determination.

Her career has been amazing. We needed her and she was there for us at the Pentagon after 9-11. She was sent to Texas by FEMA to help in the Space Shuttle Columbia recovery efforts. She worked the devastation in Bay St. Louis, MS after Hurricane Katrina.

Alley has worked countless other searches in numerous states looking for those who are missing. She's found a child deeply buried for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. She's found several drownings in rivers and lakes as well as others missing in different situations.

Alley has even worked with archeologists proving dogs can find historical and pre-historical remains. I am in awe at her talent and desire to find.

She was put here for a reason, and I believe that she is fulfilling it. This is this dog¹s calling in lifeto serve our nation, our communities, and those families missing loved ones.

As far as her health goes, the radiation helped the pain and allows her to get around without too much limping. On good days she doesn't limp at all. She has been suffering from nose bleeds and now her recent blood work shows some kidney failure.

You wouldn't know it by looking at her as she is always happy and eager to work! (The picture of her in the boat doing water search was taken just last weekend.)

We received this very sad post from Heather about her special girl, Alley.

While trying to figure out the cause for Alley's nose bleeds, we finally got the correct cancer diagnoses. She actually had Multiple Myeloma. She went on chemo and Prednisone the last two weeks, but her abdomen kept swelling. Yesterday she was in a lot of pain with a distended abdomen on top of her going back to being 3 legged lame. I took the day off work to take her to a new oncologist who was very kind in making an emergency appointment for us. Ultrasound results showed a mass in her intestines backing up everything in her stomach.

My wonderful FEMA vet talked with the oncologist and understood my feelings I could not put Alley through another surgery. It was time to end her suffering. Literally as this was unfolding at the specialty clinic, I was playing phone tag with an authority about a future search and watching the notices as FEMA was deploying teams for the approaching hurricane.

Talk about being torn. It made the fact I was about to lose my trusted and always ready to search partner even harder as I knew I would no longer have her to rely on for either mission should I be asked to respond.

I was fortunate to have good vets giving Alley the best care. Even though my regular vet was off, he came out to my house to put Alley down. He has put down each of my K9 partners making sure they go in peace, comfortably at home with me there.

I will miss that happy little dog!