Search and rescue team embarking on new opportunity

Keena, a purebred border collie, has been in training to be a search and rescue dog for about a year. (Hwy 55 N Search and Rescue/Facebook)

Highway 55 North Search and Rescue has a four-legged volunteer in training—a five-year-old purebred border collie named Keena.

Handler Bree Hawrylak knew she wanted to work with dogs when she started volunteering for search and rescue 10 years ago.

At the time, no one in Saskatchewan used dogs for searches and there wasn’t many training resources, she said.

She would have trained both of her companions, but while the other had no interest in working, Keena was already at the door eager to learn.

“She picked it up almost instantly and she’s been doing really well with training. She’s got the focus. She’s got the drive,” said Hawrylak.

Handler Bree Hawrylak and search and rescue dog in training Keena at Welcome to the Lake on May 18. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

The team has taken a search and rescue seminar in Regina and a tracking class in Prince Albert, aside from training regularly with the Highway 55 North Search and Rescue group.

“The biggest thing is she can cover a lot more territory than I ever can and their sense of smell, their sense of drive,” she said.

“She will go for hours and I actually have to stop her in order to get her to take breaks, but I just think it’s an extremely (good) tool that we could be utilizing more in the province with searches.”

It will be another year at minimum before Keena is a certified search and rescue dog if Hawrylak continues in the process.

Highway 55 North Search and Rescue operates out of Candle Lake, which is about 65 kilometres northeast of Prince Albert.

Keena was greeting children and acting as the group’s mascot at Welcome to the Lake, a summer kickoff event held annually in the community.