In late March of 2014, death descended upon the community of Oso, Washington in the form of a massive landslide. Ten million cubic yards of dirt and mud crashed through homes, sweeping a 20-foot-high wall of debris before it and scouring the valley floor. In the cold rain of that morning, an entire community disappeared in a sea of mud. In the desperate hours that followed, rescue crews were able to pull only eight survivors out of the wrecked landscape. And then all became quiet, with the stunned realization that many more people were missing, but none were still living.
This is the moment when the story of A Dog's Devotion begins. The emergency call from Oso went out, and was answered by K9 Search and Rescue (SAR) teams from across the Pacific Northwest. Suzanne, along with her 4-year-old Labrador Retriever, Keb, and her teammate Guy, was one of the SAR teams to respond to this disaster. In this book, readers immediately find themselves on the ground in the cold mud of the Oso Landslide Disaster on the desperate search for the remains of over forty lost souls. In subsequent chapters, readers will accompany Suzanne, Guy, and Keb as they are inserted by helicopter to search high snowfields on Mount Rainier, or as they traverse steep, forested slopes searching for the clandestine grave of murder victims. They’ll join K9 Keb, as her keen nose leads to human remains in the forests of Washington State and as far away as the woods of Scandinavia.
Keb’s story is of a dedicated K9 who can distinguish the scent of the dead from the scent of the living, and who can detect buried bones and even corpses underwater. Readers will follow this intrepid K9 and her teammates as they face the challenges of changeable weather, deep northwest forests, high mountain slopes, and menacing coyotes to find dead bodies, missing hikers, and even the bones of murder victims from long ago. Among their successes: finding multiple victims buried by the 2014 Oso Landslide, solving the mysterious disappearance of women in wealthy suburbs, and finding human bones thought to be forever lost to time. It’s their story about evolving as search and rescue volunteers while overcoming harsh conditions, inner demons, a rust-bound bureaucracy, and back-stabbing teammates. While internal conflicts threaten their larger K9 team, Keb’s training, loyalty, and perseverance inspire them, and help them find the resolve to carry on their service to the community.
Suzanne Elshult has been active in Search and Rescue (SAR) since 2001. She is the President of Cascadia Search Dogs, has held leadership positions with Snohomish County Search and Rescue and Everett Mountain Rescue. She received Washington State Recognition for contributions to the SAR community. Elshult and K9 Keb have searched for missing persons on hundreds of missions in wilderness, disaster, and urban environments. Elshult and Keb are still actively deploying in the mountains and communities of the Pacific Northwest.
James Guy Mansfield, PhD, has been active in Search and Rescue since 2008. With Everett Mountain Rescue, he has deployed on wilderness, disaster, technical rope-rescue missions, and searches for abducted children. Mansfield has managed some of the largest searches in Washington State, and assisted law enforcement on major homicide cases. He has been recognized by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department and the Governor of Washington State for his role on high-profile SAR missions. He is a director of the Washington State Search and Rescue Planning Unit.