June 19, 2005 – November 18, 2019
Dharma was purchased from a pet store and given to her first family as a gift. Though they loved Dharma, they had no experience with this breed and she soon out grew her small yard. They moved to a horse farm but Dharma’s antics were more than they could handle, and she was bored. Dharma was then given to another family. She was destructive and listened to no one. She misbehaved so badly she was given the middle name of “NO!” Luckily, I knew both of Dharma’s previous families. They asked if I would take Dharma, teach her some obedience and hopefully find her a good home. Had I declined, Dharma would have been sent to a shelter as they felt there were no other options. And that was the beginning of our journey, the first week of December, 2007.
From the start I believe I learned more than she did. Her intelligence was unmatched by any dog I had worked with before. Dharma was amazing. She was also unruly beyond measure. She wanted to do things her way, a literal bull in a china closet. She needed a job, but it wouldn’t be hunting. Dharma was scared of guns. I had another job in mind, one that I had been waiting to try. And so our Search and Recovery work began.
We both learned quickly. Many hours were spent training. We had some great training sessions and some that made me contemplate giving up. But we didn’t give up on each other. We just worked harder. Within a few months she was dual trained for air scent and for Human Remains Detection. She worked fast, accurately, and never quit. Her work ethic was outstanding. Her certification tests were passed quickly and easily. She could clear many acres in a short period of time, finding what she was looking for.
At age 6 Dharma was diagnosed with subcutaneous Mast Cell Cancer. I was devastated. Given only 9 months to a year to live, dying so soon was not an option for her. She still had work to do. She had purpose and I knew her time on earth was not going to be short. I was right. She wanted to work, and so we did. We worked for 8 more years, partners through it all.
When Dharma was 12 years old she would achieve what would be her last test for Human Remains Detection certification when she successfully located 6 sources in a large area of acreage in just over 6 minutes. At the age of 13 years and 3 months, Dharma became certified in Air Scent Search and Rescue for the state of Kentucky, Emergency Management Division. This was the first year Kentucky had offered state certification testing and I was glad Dharma was able to complete this certification after dedicating nearly 12 years of her life volunteering for this great state. To date, she is the most senior dog to have successfully passed this test. Dharma had acquired her AKC CGC and was also awarded, along with her SAR team mates, the “Owen Countian of the Year Award” for dedicated service to our county and state.
Dharma was a force to be reckoned with. She was challenging, fearless, smart and demanded respect. Who knew this unruly dog, who was loved by her families but couldn’t be handled, would end up being my once in a lifetime dog. She was born to be with me. It just took her plowing through 2 families to get to me.
Dharma was my partner, but she was my friend, teacher and protector. She was a huge part of my life, my family’s life and even other’s lives. She was loved and respected and in return she gave love and respect.
“The world was blessed to have you 14 years and 5 months. I was blessed to have you 12 years of your life, which wasn’t nearly long enough. You had battled cancer for 8 years but now it was winning the war. I took you to a pretty field with trees and birds and a light breeze blowing. This is where we would cross you over. You wanted to stay in your spot in the Suburban. You had journeyed thousands of miles riding here, in your spot. And this was your last mile, your last journey with me. I lay down beside you and thanked you for being my friend and partner. And just then, with your last few breaths, a huge gust of wind blew in around us and I heard you say “I’m here!” You are here, in what’s left of my heart, the part you didn’t take with you.”
Celia Wright and CCSR/HRDROK K-9 “Dharma”
Commonwealth Canine Search and Recovery
Human Remains Detection and Recovery of Kentucky