Search and Rescue K9

The primary function of the Search and Rescue K9 is to assist first responders in locating missing persons and victims of disasters. When it comes to search and rescue efforts, K9’s are capable of doing the work of several first responders. K9’s are able to discern scents unnoticeable by humans and they can do it while jumping, crawling and running across a debris pile.

The Greeley Fire Department is proud to have one Search and Rescue K9 Handler, Engineer Denise Alvord, who personally owns two qualified K9’s, Saker and Beta.

Saker and Beta are trained and available for local, regional and national response in the following disciplines:

  • Disaster – assist in search of debris for survivors and victims following events such as building collapse, fire, or severe weather events and natural disasters.
  • Water Recovery – searching from shoreline and/or out of a boat to locate a victim in a body of water
  • Human Remains (cadaver) – assist in locating human remains, to include searching wilderness/natural areas as well as urban environments, buildings and vehicles.
  • Area Search (wilderness, urban, buildings, avalanche) – Search designated areas for missing persons.
  • Tracking/Trailing – Assist in locating a missing person (i.e., child or at-risk adult) by following the path walked from the person’s last known location.

Saker and Beta are owned by and live with their handler, training regularly and responding to requests on and off-duty. Each canine specializes either in “live find” or “human remains” search work and all are members of Colorado Task Force 1 (CO-TF1). CO-FT1 is one of 28 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces in the country. The task force is made up of over 200 members, with 12 canine handler positions.

In addition to numerous local and regional search and rescue responses, Engineer Alvord’s K9’s have participated in the following national deployments as part of their commitment to CO-TF1:

  • Hurricanes Harvey and Irma (2017)
  • Hurricane Ida (2021)
  • Hurricane Ian (2022)
  • Maui Wildfires (2023)

Saker (June 4, 2013 – )

Saker is a Belgian Malinois born in Slovakia. He was selected by his handler, Engineer/Paramedic Denise Alvord when he was 11 months old and began his search training. Saker is a FEMA-certified Live Find Search dog, trained to help locate survivors in the debris following a disaster event. Saker is also trained in Area Search, Trailing, Avalanche and Water Search and responds locally and regionally, both in town and in the wilderness areas of Colorado to aid in the search for missing persons.

Saker was named after a type of falcon, his search style being fast with big leaps as he seems determined to learn to fly. He puts 200% effort and enthusiasm into everything he does, with the apparent motto, “Every day is the best day”. He enjoys visiting with the kids at Public Events almost as much as he enjoys his search work and firmly believes everything can and should be a toy.

Photo of Search and Rescue K9 Saker Photo of Search and Rescue K9 Saker jumping from a boat into water

Beta (May 22, 2020 – )

Beta is a Belgian Malinois, born in Connecticut and paired with her handler as a 10 week old puppy. Beta’s handler, Engineer/Paramedic Denise Alvord, raised Beta to be a working dog, but made sure she had time to be a puppy and develop into wanting the job before starting her formal search training at 10 months old.

Beta is a FEMA-certified Human Remains Search dog, trained to help locate the deceased victims of a disaster event. Beta is also trained in water recovery and non-disaster related searches for human remains in the wilderness or urban environment.

Beta was named for the radiological Beta particles, being small, high-energy and fast moving. She often appears to float across the debris piles as she searches. Beta loves to work, tending to get into mischief if she isn’t getting to work or train as often as she wants. Her favorite trick is to try to pick-pocket toys from anybody she meets (and of course anything can qualify as a toy in her mind).

Photo of Search and Rescue K9 Beta Photo of Search and Rescue K9 Beta searching through rubble and debris

search and rescue K9 saker at a Greeley firefighter open house