Scholarship to support search and rescue K-9 handlers

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COLUMBIA - The handler of a K-9 search and rescue dog in training is keeping the dog's legacy alive after it was hit by a car.

Redden was a search and rescue dog with Missouri Task Force 1.

Kathleen Kelsey, Redden's handler, started the K-9 Redden Memorial Disaster Dog Training Scholarship to help other handlers across the country afford training for their dogs. 

The first $500 for the fund came from the reward money to find Redden, and as of Saturday morning, the fund had collected $4,600.

Kelsey said she was overwhelmed by the community's support in helping search for Redden. 

"I was floored by the outpouring of support, sharing on social media, help at Kinkos to print signs in a speedy fashion, teammates and people in the community coming out and walking fields and ditches and putting out fliers," Kelsey said. "It was very humbling." 

Redden was certified with the International Police Work Dog Association and was set to get his certification with the Federal Emergency Management Agency this fall. Redden lived with Kelsey in her home. 

Kelsey said many K-9 search and rescue handlers across the country are volunteers. Kelsey said it can cost handlers in excess of $10,000 each year to take care of the animals. This is on top of the countless hours handlers spend to care for and train the animals. 

The scholarship will support handlers with training. 

"We want to be able to provide some funds that will help to make the opportunity more feasible for these handlers to get the repetitions and type of training they need to be most prepared and best prepared when a disaster strikes," Kelsey said.  

Search and rescue animals undergo extensive training – locally and across the country – to prepare for natural and man-made disasters, Kelsey said. The dogs could be helping find people in collapsed houses or structures or in fields. 

"If you envision all the things that are in your house or in a local mall or office building and spin them around and throw them all over, you can understand how complex of an environment that is for the dogs to work in," Kelsey said. "It takes a very special dog and a lot of specific training."

Some of the training happens in Boone County and at the Missouri Task Force 1's training center.

The center has a large rubble pile, where dogs train by playing hide and seek, Kelsey said. 

Calvary Canine, a nonprofit organization, is hosting the scholarship fund in honor of Redden. The organization will be opening up applications online for handlers to apply for funds. To learn more and to donate, click here.


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