Retired rescue dog needs help with vet bills
December 3, 2015
We often tend to think of heroes in terms of magnanimous actions – running into burning buildings and the like.
But those heroes tend to be in the minority. Sometimes we overlook heroes every bit as selfless – the ones who spend hours upon days upon years training for a burning building or a wind slab avalanche, always ready to put themselves in harm's way at a moment's notice.
Even though the catastrophic test of will might never arrive, these heroes stand ready with unwavering loyalty, dogged resolve and at times, wagging tails.
In Fraser, one such hero is currently sprawled across Jeanette McQuade's living room floor.
As a wilderness search dog, Bruin trained in many disciplines, from cadaver searches to water searches to urban trailing, but his bread and butter were air scent and avalanche searches. Bruin was even certified to ride in a Flight for Life helicopter.
Bruin is big boy. Lying at McQuade's feet, he forms a heaping partition of dark fur between her and me.
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He's part Akita, a very loyal breed, and McQuade says he's very protective, often using his bulk as a buffer between her and strangers.
"He's kind of always by my side," she says.
It's not a surprise that the two are so close.
Bruin is a retired search and rescue dog. He and McQuade were a part of Search and Rescue Dogs of Grand County, serving from 2005 until the organization dissolved around 2009.
During that time, the two would train for a couple of nights and all of Saturday every week, McQuade said.
"We probably did five or six missions, so you're doing a lot of work, and you're not always used, so in that way it was a lot of commitment," McQuade said. "You really have to enjoy doing it I think, to stay at that level of commitment."
McQuade adopted Bruin from the Boulder Humane Society while studying for her master's degree.
Bruin started training for search and rescue shortly after.
"I think I just saw an ad or heard about it and was like, 'let's check it out,'" McQuade said. "It was something that I think we just enjoyed doing together, but then I saw that he was good at it and we just kind of stuck with it. It was rewarding."
As a wilderness search dog, Bruin trained in many disciplines, from cadaver searches to water searches to urban trailing, but his bread and butter were air scent and avalanche searches.
Bruin was even certified to ride in a Flight for Life helicopter.
"I was a little nervous about his size and getting him in there," McQuade said. "We did get him in there, but we were like, 'wow.' It was tight because he is a big dog."
Bruin's days of jumping out of helicopters and digging through avalanche debris are behind him, but he's still dedicated to public service, occasionally participating in programs at the local library and playing the odd reindeer from time to time, McQuade said.
But he has had some health problems lately.
This summer, there were days when Bruin seemed just plain down and out.
After extensive medical testing, Bruin's veterinarian diagnosed him with arthritis of the spine and neck.
"Some days he's just down and we've had days were we've had to hand feed him and you question, is it time," McQuade said. "And then the next day he'll be good to go, toy in his mouth, motivated."
They've finally found some medications and therapy methods that seem to really help Bruin, but the cost of multiple panels of blood work and x-rays from his diagnosis rose quickly.
Now, McQuade has started a crowd funding webpage to help cover the costs of Bruin's vet bills.
It's not easy to ask the public for help, McQuade said, but given Bruin's public service and reputation as a gentle giant, people can decide for themselves if they want to support him.
"I don't think any donation is too little and every little bit helps," McQuade said. "If people aren't in a position to donate, then send him some well wishes."
Donations can be made at gofundme.com/bruin.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.