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Sunnyside woman gives back to community, church by helping others

Murphy, a four-year-old field bred Springer Spaniel, trots through the area looking for his target. Since the wind is blowing the scent he is looking for it everywhere, and that can sometimes prove difficult when he is in the midst of a search.

Finally, Murphy finds what's he been looking for and goes into a crouch. He looks back towards his owner in anticipation with only one thing on his mind, his favorite ball.

Murphy and his owner, Tracy Kaufman, are part of the Yakima County Sheriff's Department K-9 Search and Rescue team of volunteers. There are approximately 10 members in the K-9 department.

Since he was brought home to Kaufman's house four years ago Murphy has been constantly trained to search. His specialty is finding cadavers.

Murphy is used by the Sheriff's office to help find human remains. It's not easy to do and Kaufman must spend approximately 10 hours a week training Murphy.

"We're doing something almost every day," she said.

She said the real purpose of a search dog is to clear certain areas. A dog is able to cover a much larger area than a person can and having dogs help in the search enables rescuers to concentrate forces in other areas.

Kaufman has been involved with search and rescue for the past nine years. She previously had a dog, named Daisy, who was a trailing dog. This meant she would track live humans, usually when a child was lost. After Daisy retired, and due to the emotional attachment formed when looking for live humans, Kaufman switched to cadavers with Murphy.

"I use search and rescue as my tithe for my church," Kaufman explained. "It's my way of giving back to the community. I also enjoy working with dogs so it's kind of a double whammy."

She also volunteers all of her time and takes on any expense when helping the Sheriff's office.

She trains with Murphy by putting him through mock searches. She will set out targets for Murphy and walk him through the search as though it was real. She also spends a lot of time training certain components of Murphy's traits. Recently she worked on his alertness.

"It's his way of communicating to me that he has found something," she explained.

She said it's best to use several environments when training Murphy. The training is constant.

"You can never stop," she said. "You never know what you're going to be called for."

. Corey Russell can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or you can e-mail crussell@eaglenewspapers.com

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