KAMLOOPS - Kamloops Search and Rescue member is coming to grips with the loss of one its important members: Ruby, one of two trained and certified dogs died of cancer earlier this month.
Mike Ritcey, Ruby's owner, says just after the yellow Lab became a validated search dog, he noticed a lump on her ribs.
"I thought it was a cracked rib," Ritcey says. "I thought maybe she broke her rib during validation."
He took her to the vet, who ran some tests and performed a biopsy on the lump, to find out the two-year-old pup had an aggressive form of cancer.
"It’s devastating, it was pretty tough," Ritcey says. "Being a young dog and all, I didn’t think that was going to be the outcome. There was nothing they could do."
Ritcey says Ruby died about three weeks after her initial diagnosis, and fellow members of Kamloops Search and Rescue have since gifted Ritcey with a plaque to remember Ruby.
He still has another SAR dog, nine-year-old Juno who has just one month left before her validation as a search and rescue dog is up, leaving the team with one.
Ritcey says search and rescue dogs play a vital role for crews.
"They say that a dog can search 50 times more than a person can," he says. "It’s the equivalent of having 50 people out there. They can clear an area really quickly."
This includes searching for people buried by an avalanche or stuck in water, Ritcey says.
"I think the (search and rescue) dogs are just a great way to enhance the team."
Ritcey says life will have to move on after the loss of Ruby, and he hopes to eventually train another dog to be part of the team. But for now, he's remembering Ruby as the loving pup she was.
"She was just a real different type of dog. She was a real loveable dog, she always had to be touching you," he says. "She would go out searching, come back and lay on your feet."
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