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Remembering a Search and Rescue Hero
KC Pearson and Albert von Stockers were more than search and rescue partners, they were buddies.
Albert, a 13-year-old standard schnauzer, died Aug. 30. He had tumors removed a couple of years ago and suffered from arthritis before succumbing to old age.
Even though he was in pain, Albert still enjoyed life to the very end, Pearson said. He was a strong dog.
Albert was the founding dog in what is now All Breed Canine Search and Rescue, a division of Washington Explorer Search and Rescue (WESAR). Pearson, Alberts owner and handler, got the schnauzer when she was 13 years old. The puppy provided companionship for another family dog and motivated Pearsons dad, Bruce Ramey, who had eye surgery shortly before the family got the schnauzer.
At night he would go to everybodys rooms to make sure everybody was where they were supposed to be, Pearson said. He liked to make sure that everybody was doing OK.
In 1996, Pearson began training Albert for WESAR, Kitsap Unit. At the time, she was 14 years old and had little outdoors experience.
It was kind of scary to begin with because I hadnt been camping or hiking very much, Pearson said.
Pearson and Albert trained with Northwest Bloodhound Search Dogs, West Coast Search Dogs and on their own with the help of her parents. In 1997, the Kitsap County Sheriffs Office tested the pair for in-county search and rescue certification and they passed with flying colors.
It wasnt easy getting people to believe in a 14-year-old girl and her funny looking dog, but enough people gave us a chance and enabled us to prove ourselves, Pearson said.
Although Pearson and Albert never personally made a find on a search and rescue mission, they were leaders in WESAR, Kitsap Unit. The teenager and her dog led many searches and were soon requested to work on missions in Mason and Jefferson counties.
We proved ourselves over and over by setting the direction for searches, Pearson said. We would say which way they went and send WESAR teams ahead while we continued on the trail.
Pearson and her parents formed All Breed Canine Search and Rescue as a division of WESAR. The search and rescue group was the first of its kinds because it allowed people as young as 13 to become members of search and rescue. The group now has 16 dogs in various stages of training and several youth handlers.
It was really neat creating a group where kids could be handlers, Pearson said. Right now there is nowhere else in the state where kids can be handlers.
In 2005, Pearson decided it was time for Albert to retire. Shortly after retirement, the aging schnauzer developed two tumors and arthritis and died a couple years later.
During his working days, Albert survived an 8-foot fall into an abandoned house foundation, partially fell over a cliff on Bainbridge Island and persevered through having two pounds of cancerous growth removed.
Albert touched many lives and possibly even saved a few during his life, Pearson said. Albert loved searching. I loved being out there with him helping people. We made a good team.
Donations in memory of Albert can be mailed to WESAR, Kitsap Unit, P.O. Box 3191, Silverdale, WA 98383.
WESAR, Kitsap Unit is currently recruiting new members ages 13 1/2 to 80. Training begins in October. For more information about WESAR, Kitsap Unit, visit the Web site at www.kitsapesar.com.