KEESEVILLE - Oakland is a search dog who spends his days training to save the lives of others. Now, he's the one who needs saving. The 2-year-old German Shepherd is part of the Champlain Valley Search and Rescue K9 Unit, an independent, nonprofit organization based in Keeseville. Recently, Oakland was performing advanced obstacle training when he fell and severely tore his Achilles tendon, said Shannon Bresett, a dog handler and co-founder of the search and rescue unit.
Bresett and her husband, Christopher, a fellow dog handler and co-founder of the unit, were in the Adirondack Mountains with Oakland and other dogs from the unit on a routine training exercise when the injury occurred, she explained.
"We noticed he had a slight limp, but we didn't think much of it because that happens from time to time on exercises," she said. "Then, we noticed he would not put any pressure on his leg whatsoever."
Bresett and her husband took Oakland to a veterinarian for further examination where it was found Oakland had a severe tear in his Achilles tendon.
"It's not completely severed, because if it were, he'd have no control over it," said Bresett. "He can keep it upright, but it's hanging on by a thread."
Though Oakland hasn't shown signs of being in pain - as much as a dog can show, said Bresett - he will need surgery to correct his injury. Estimates received show the surgery will cost approximately $2,500, with necessary rehabilitation therapy bringing the expense to nearly $5,000.
"I have no problem putting that much money into him," said Bresett, "it's just being a nonprofit, we run primarily on donations and mainly on funding through our own pockets."
While their main concern is for Oakland's well-being, said Bresett, the search and rescue unit does depend on the service dogs like Oakland can provide. And, considering the unit of seven dogs and eight volunteers serves a 100-mile radius from the village of Keeseville - extending north to the Canadian border and south to Warren County and to points in between - Oakland's surgery is crucial, she said.