When severe floods struck West Virginia last summer, many people were in need of help.
A few four-legged friends went down to give a helping hand — one of those was SunnyRay, who has a connection to this area.
Maryln Adams has been involved with training cadaver and K9 dogs for the last 15 years and is a part of the non-profit group North Star International K9 Training Association. She said she saw a need to help families with mentally ill and autistic relatives that may wander off, and tracking dogs are used to help locate them.
In the fall of 2010, Adams, a retired speech and language pathologist, traveled in the wilderness area of Caesar Creek Lake State Park teaching a dog-tracking class when she came across an unexpected visitor. A golden retriever, who Adams believed to be nine months old, came out of the tall grass afraid and with bleeding feet.
After she managed to coax him into the car, Adams put an ad in the News Journal and traveled around to area farms to ask if they were missing a dog, thinking she could find his owner.
“I thought he was such a beautiful dog that he might have been a runaway,” she said. “Finally, one of the farmers asked where I found him. I told him and he said that was where people take their dogs to dump them.”
To Adams evidence of his abandonment were displayed when the dog would rush back and jump in the car whenever they were leaving an area. She thinks he did this out of fear of being left behind.
She decided to take him in and train him as a cadaver dog, a dog that’s trained to use their sense of smell to locate humans.
Years later, after he was rescued, Adams and SunnyRay went down to West Virginia as part of a five-person search and rescue team, and her dog was the most experienced of the group.
“There were about 12 miles of river that we had to search and the flood had caused huge debris piles everywhere,” said Adams.
They were asked to aid in the search of a 35-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl. They cleared a creek the first day, through mud up to their knees.
Eventually, the group managed to locate the remains of the 35-year-old female under a pile and later they tracked down the 14-year-old’s body as well.
In total, the team spent nine days and went over 90 miles searching, and during the last three days it was just her, SunnyRay, her bloodhound Arthur, plus searcher Dave Weik and his bloodhound, Lady Bird. After that was all done, SunnyRay got a well-deserved vacation.
When it comes to his work, it’s not only through his work in searching for human remains that have made an impact, it’s also through the connections he has made.
One was a murder case in Kokomo, Indiana where they were trying to find a girl’s body. During the two years they’ve been searching, SunnyRay and the girl’s father have become very close. Adams said that this dog has almost become a therapy dog for people.
With all that SunnyRay has accomplished, Adams knows exactly what she’d say to the person who abandoned SunnyRay.
“SunnyRay was a better dog than the person was at being human,” she said. “They had a lot of options that they could’ve done with this dog. They could have advertised him in the paper and sold him, given him a good home, donated him to search and rescue … taking him to a dog pound would’ve been safer than dumping him.
“I can’t think of anything more horrible than dumping a dog in the wilderness. Any decent human wouldn’t do that.”
Recently, Maryln Adams made SunnyRay and other dogs the subject of a book Adams penned called “Rescue Me! Rescued K9 to Hero K9.” The book tells the story of SunnyRay and other dogs who were unwanted but became partners of K9 searches and rescue handlers. The book is available on Amazon.