- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) - For almost eight years, a furry companion stood by Roger Victor’s side, waiting to serve her master and the Fayette County Coroner’s Office.

But after a short battle with a dangerous tumor, the German Shepherd, Lady, was laid to rest last weekend.

“She was part of our family. It’s been really hard having to say goodbye to her,” said Victor, chief field investigator with the county coroner’s office. Lady was the Victor family’s pet and was trained as a cadaver dog to work on rescue calls.

“Lady was having a hard time walking, so we took her to Blout Veterinary where they did a few laser treatments,” said Victor.

She recovered a little bit, but still had internal problems. X-rays later revealed a massive tumor attached to her spine.

“She was given steroids, and she perked up for about two weeks. But it didn’t last. She was in pain, and we didn’t want her to suffer,” he said. After Lady was euthanized, they had her cremated. She now rests in a donated urn in the family room.

Victor said they have received dozens of text messages, sympathy cards and flowers since Lady’s death. “It’s hard to explain the loss. When I would come to the house, she would always be there. Now she’s not.”

“It’s tough. I believe animals are better than people when it comes to understanding you. They know when you’re down, when you’re happy,” he said.

In her career, Lady had eight confirmed recoveries of human remains, most of them in bodies of water. The two that stood out in Victor’s mind were ones in Connellsville and Ohiopyle.

A little over two years ago, a Somerset County man went to Ohiopyle State Park, and was reported missing after his family hadn’t heard from him and his vehicle was found in a parking lot in the state park. Several weeks had passed without any luck when Lady was called in.

“We went up and down the river with rafters and Lady hit on something in a certain spot along the river,” said Victor. “She kept barking and letting us know she smelled something. We called the scuba team in and after all that time, they recovered the body.”

Victor said though it was a difficult situation for everyone involved, he knew that finding the body “brought closure to the family.”

Lady also helped locate the body of a young drowning victim almost three years ago in Connellsville. When the 17-year-old Mount Pleasant victim was swept under the heavy currents, search and rescue teams were not able to locate him.

“We had Lady sniff a couple pieces of the teen’s clothing and begin her water search on the rafts. After a few passes in one area, she let us know that something was there,” said Victor. The scuba team came in and found the body a short time later.

“It amazed the chief that Lady found the body,” he continued. “Afterwards, we talked to the family and let Lady go to them. They were hugging her and crying with her. I know Lady found that rewarding.”

Lady joined the Victor family after Roger picked her out of a litter his daughter owned. The runt of the litter, she was first known as “Little Lady.” It wasn’t long after that when he initiated certain tests to see if she would make for a good cadaver dog. Their previous dog, a black lab named Shadow, was also a family-trained cadaver dog.

“We played little games of hide-and-seek with the grandkids - they would go hide in the fields and trees on a friend’s property and Lady would go find them. We knew she would make a good cadaver dog,” said Victor. Another training method included putting ground meat into a tennis ball, letting it spoil, and hiding and burying it for Lady to sniff out and find. He would also drop it in the river and she would locate the scent, even in the swift currents.

“All of the local fire departments and police forces knew she was available, and they called us when needed,” he said. “We usually located the body within an hour’s time. The guys really appreciated the dog being there.”





Information from: Herald-Standard, https://www.heraldstandard.com/

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