Adopter Trains Abandoned Puppy in Search and Rescue Work

By PetcoFoundation on Mar. 23, 2017


Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Pamela Phillips won Pit Road K9 Rescue and Sanctuary in Williamsburg, Virginia a 2016 Holiday Wishes award. 

I volunteered with Pit Road K9 Rescue and Sanctuary for several months but did not want a dog just yet. I had met a few dogs that tempted me, but the timing just didn't seem right.

Then in April 2013 my daughter and I worked a large event for Pit Road. My daughter handled one of the four-month-old puppies that had just arrived at the rescue group. They had been abandoned, were shy and had ribs showing. The brindle puppy had a profound effect on her and me. So, we brought this shy, scared little puppy home.


After a few months of proper nutrition, Ena's body filled out. She had loads of energy and drive and needed a job to do. I was interested in K9 search and rescue, so I found a group to see if Ena and I could cut it. Early on, bilateral canine cruciate ligament (CCL) tears sidelined her. But she resumed training and currently, Ena has one more state test to take before becoming an operational live find search and rescue dog.

All of this has been a huge change to my life. Even though search and rescue involves volunteers, it's not a hobby. It's a job for both dog and handler. What I learn during training and searches is incredible. Being a part of a group of professional volunteers trying to locate and bring a missing loved one home is humbling and very rewarding.


Ena and I train with our search and rescue group every weekend. The trust and communication skills we've developed still blows my mind. Ena can work out of my sight, locate a scent, find me and then take me to the scent source. I have no idea what I would have been doing if Ena hadn't come into my life.

We spend every weekend in the woods, off-trail or navigating by map and compass. We sometimes sleep in tents or hotels and spend lots of time in the car traveling all over the state – all with no complaints. She is my partner. She instigated this new volunteer career for me. I would have missed out on what is now a huge part of my life if not for her. She has taught me a lot.

Did I say mention she is my first dog? What an introduction to dogs!

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