Pixel Tracker

Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 4:46 pm | Partly Cloudy 61º


After 12 Years, Search & Rescue Dog Retires in a Blaze of Glory

Highly trained canine has assisted in 81 searches in his career, will be followed by a new search puppy

Blaze, a longtime key member of the Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue team, formally entered retirement Saturday at a private ceremony on a ranch where he and handler Juanita Smith regularly trained.

The California Rescue Dog Association–certified dog was surrounded by other search dogs, dog handlers, Search & Rescue team members, and Sheriff’s Department personnel as they paid tribute to his nine years of service.

“I would like to say that I trained Blaze, but in reality, he trained me,” Smith said. “There were times on the trail that I would give a little back pressure on the lead and ask Blaze if he was sure; he would look back at me and with his body language say, ‘Trust me, I got it,’ ... and he would be right.”

Over the past 12 years, Blaze assisted on 81 searches, including 52 in-county and 29 out-of-county searches.

Among his local career highlights were a 2005 North County search for a missing motorcyclist and a 2010 backcountry search for a missing swimmer last seen at the White Rock Campground.

Serving out-of-county, Smith and Blaze were a part of the 2009 Malibu Creek State Park search for Mitrice Richardson and the 2010 San Diego search for missing teenager Chelsea King.

In total, Blaze has worked 533 hours, spanning 12,199 travel miles — not including his regular trainings.

Blaze is Smith’s second working dog. A former K-9 handler with the Santa Barbara Police Department, Smith worked with Patrol K-9 Guss for five years, and had several criminal apprehensions credited to their career.

A new border collie puppy, Caper, is in training to be CARDA-certified mission-ready as a human-remains detection dog.

Humans drop about 40,000 skin cells per minute by evaporated perspiration, respiratory gases or decomposition gases released by bacterial action on skin or tissues, and every human produces a distinctive and different odor.

Trailing dogs are trained in scent discrimination. When given an uncontaminated scent article from the missing person, a properly trained trailing dog can follow the isolated scent of that missing person.

CARDA is the country’s largest search dog group, setting the gold standard for search dog requirements. Certified teams are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The all-volunteer Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  Click here for more information on Search & Rescue, or call 805.967.0253. Click here to make an online donation to help ensure the community has highly trained and qualified search dogs available to respond to local search and rescue emergencies.

— Valerie Walston is the public information officer for Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >