My dad, Mark, and our German Shepherd, Shasta, are my heroes because they have done things I never thought possible. They are also known as ASARD Team #144 and they've participated in rescue missions in Alaska for years.
We hand-picked Shasta out of her litter, and she and my Dad went through years of training to develop her abilities and alertness. The whole family helped with her, along with members of Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs. Shasta has four areas of certification: she has been trained to find people lost in the woods, drowned, buried in avalanches, and cadavers. She was one of the best trained search dogs on the Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs team.
Over her career, she has had three finds, all of them with drowned people. On her first find, she was not even certified to do the search, but for training purposes she tried, and succeeded. After this, she and my dad participated in about 50 search missions in four years, and received the Pathfinder Award two years in a row. This award is given to the team who logs in the most time and miles in searches.
Shasta has been retired since January 1999 because of spinal cord injuries. She is now a family dog like our other dog, but she'd rather be out searching. My dad still lets her go out, but only when conditions are safe. Since my dad retired her, she has developed some nervous twitches such as "chewing" her feet to burn energy.
Shasta and my dad are my heroes because they have done some very courageous things. Dad's hard work and patience in training Shasta over the years enabled her to use her keen sense of smell to help people in time of need. They were ready and available day and night to go where needed. My dad never gave up on Shasta even in times when she was not doing well. My dad and our dog Shasta made a great team and I look up to them.