Informant’s Note: Because I know you’re dying to ask, yes, you may pet Garmin at CrimeCon (unless she’s working)!
It all started when Michael Sarvich watched the Disney classic The Fox and the Hound as a child. Dismayed to learn that he could not, in fact, keep a fox for a pet, he set a simple goal: when he was grown up, he would get a bloodhound dog instead.
And that’s exactly what he did. Seven years ago, Michael brought home Sophie, a bloodhound puppy, and fulfilled his lifelong dream. To keep the energetic puppy busy and entertained, Michael decided to train her as a tracking dog. After all, it’s what she was born to do. But Michael never thought Sophie would search for more than his own kids in the backyard.
After Sophie’s first day of training, her trainers excitedly informed Michael that she had extraordinary potential as a search and rescue dog. “She had demonstrated commands on her first day that took older dogs months to master," says Michael. Sophie, indeed, became a certified search and rescue dog and worked until her passing at three years old due to a kidney complication.
Today, Michael and his adopted bloodhound Garmin work with the Midwest Search Dogs group to train and deploy highly skilled search and rescue dogs. I was lucky enough to sit down with him recently to learn some more about the heroic (and perfectly smoochable!) dogs coming to meet us at CrimeCon.
Breed: Australian Shepherd
Certifications: Live area search; Human remains detection; Water remains detection
Takota (Kota for short) is a workaholic. He’s certified in nearly every function of search and rescue, and he loves his job. After the 2011 tornado that wrecked havoc on the town of Joplin, MO, Kota answered the call of duty. Arriving with his handler, MWSD President Chelsea Gill, Kota worked 12-15 hour shifts for four days, alerting authorities to victims and survivors trapped in the devastation and rubble. After more than ten years on the job, Kota is approaching retirement. I’d say he’s earned it.
Breed: Australian Shepherd
In Training: Live area search; Human remains detection
Nikhya is Kota’s roommate and will replace Kota as the de facto team captain after Kota’s retirement. At two years old, Nikhya is still in puppy mode, but is quickly learning the ropes and continues to work toward certifications in other SAR disciplines. Nikhya is currently in training for live search and human remains detection.
Breed: Labrador Retriever
Certifications: Live area search
In Training: Human remains detection
Lambeau is the quintessential lab. He’s highly energetic, has an extremely high activity drive, and will do absolutely anything for food. He’s affectionate, loyal, and loves to cuddle. But when it’s time to train or work, Lambeau is in the zone. His off-the-charts energy manifests in a remarkable dedication to the job. Lambeau is currently in training for human remains detection.
Garmin is a poster-perfect bloodhound. If you saw her in a movie, she’d be the classic police K9 hound, dashing through the prison gates in hot pursuit of an escaped baddie. Garmin (so named, I presume, because she knows exactly where she’s going), began training at two months old, and five years later, she’s an expert tracking dog. When she’s not working, however, Garmin is stubborn-- sometimes the only way to get her attention is to open a cheese wrapper within earshot.
What can we expect at CrimeCon?
These dogs have serious skills, and Michael is eager to show them off. I think it’s safe to say we’ll see Garmin and her friends showcase their supercanine strengths. Michael told me that Kota once found a single human tooth in a football field in under three minutes, so maybe we’ll get to see her chase down some obscure artifact hidden in some random storage cabinet of the JW Marriott.
If you’re a true crime nerd and a bleeding-heart animal lover like I am, you will NOT want to miss this session! Click here to register for CrimeCon and catch these extraordinary dogs in action!