The Search Dogs of Hurricane Harvey


The headlines and videos of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey are horrific. Historic flooding displaced over 30,000 residents, damaged or destroyed an estimated 200,000 homes, and has caused up to approximately $180 billion dollars in damage.

On the short term, attention has rightly been focused on the 17,000 rescues that have taken place. When local law enforcement was unable to keep up with the calls for help, the public responded. Regular people, intent on simply saving lives, came from as far away as Florida bringing their own boats to put into the flood waters. People laid their lives on the line to save strangers and their pets. It’s been uplifting to watch these rescues and is a wonderful reminder that even during times of political chaos when every news story seems dark and foreboding, the human spirit continues to successfully rise to the challenge.

As in any natural disaster in modern times, search-and-rescue dogs have responded to Hurricane Harvey and will continue to do so over the coming weeks. The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) had ten teams dispatched to their San Antonia base of operations or on their way the day the hurricane made landfall. Within days, another four teams were activated, bringing the total number to fourteen, with teams responding from California, Nebraska, Texas, and Utah. As the water receded, the teams moved in, looking for anyone trapped who had been missed by rescuers in the initial rescues. It's incredibly hard work for the teams, but there is no question that lives have been and will be saved because of their presence on the ground.

SDF Mike Stornetta and Rocket.jpg

A heartwarming story about one of the SDF search-and-rescue K-9s has recently come to light out of Harvey's news cycle. Rocket, a border collie, was nearly euthanized at a shelter for being too high energy. But an SDF canine recruitment volunteer recognized something special in Rocky. He wasn’t right for search-and-rescue, but he might make a good agility dog, so she and her husband, an SDF handler himself, adopted Rocket. Within a year, however, Rocket was showing signs of being an ace search-and-rescue dog, so the SDF took him on and partnered him with Windsor Fire Engineer Mike Stornetta. Now the dog that nearly died because of his energy and drive is now using those same characteristics to save lives in Texas. Mike and Rocket were deployed to Wharton, Texas, and have been doing grid searches of flooded houses in conjunction with other task forces. Sometimes, an intuitive eye is what it takes to change and save lives, and Rocket is a prime example of this. We wish Mike, Rocket, and the other teams on the ground in Texas the very best of luck.

Photo credit: National Disaster Search Dog Foundation

I have a newsletter! Interested in getting a sneak peek at the first few chapters of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE before it launches later this month? Then just sign up at the bottom of the home page here on my website and you’ll be added to the list! More fun stuff coming in the newsletter such as cover reveals for the third book in the FBI K-9s series and Abbott and Lowell book #5, LAMENT THE COMMON BONES, as well as more sneak peeks, and early publishing news. Don’t miss out!

Teaming Dogs and Drones to Find the Missing

Before we start into today’s blog post, I just wanted to let you all know that LONE WOLF, the first book in the FBI K-9s series, is out today in mass market paperback. Prefer to read print and were curious about the series, but thought the hardcover was too pricy to try? This is your chance to jump into the series for a cheap and cheerful price. You can find it at local booksellers as well as, ,, and It’s a great time to jump into the series as BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE will be released in just four weeks!

REDOG and drones.jpg

A recent news story caught my attention for numerous reasons. Not only did it involve a real-life search-and-rescue dog team, but it also involved drones. For those of you who have read LONE WOLF, you know we used drones as a method to deliver chaos and anarchy in the form of high-energy explosives, leading to death and destruction. But this story is quite different.

The Swiss Association of Rescue Dogs (REDOG) was officially founded in 1971, but the use of mountain rescue dogs in Switzerland has been going on for centuries for avalanche rescues and to find missing climbers. Now one of the foremost rescue groups in the world, REDOG currently has 650 members and 500 active rescue dog teams, and is known for both it’s wilderness and urban disaster training. They deploy both nationally—where approximately 3,000 people go missing each year—and internationally, responding to natural disaster and missing person calls.

Recently REDOG has teamed up with the Swiss Federation of Civil Drones and this combination uses the best skills of each group to facilitate searches. Drones—often pilot-controlled octocopters which can cover distances up to five kilometers at 100km/hour—are used to search mountainous terrain which would be unsafe for both the dog and handler, as well as being able to cover open spaces encompassing large areas with high definition visuals that are then reviewed by a search specialist. If a victim is found, rescuers are sent in to that specific location. If evidence of a victim is found, search-and-rescue dog teams can be dispatched for a more localized search.  

The benefits of the two groups working together is clear. Combined searches are more efficient and save time and resources overall, significantly cutting down average rescue times.

In a turnaround from how drones were used in LONE WOLF, they are again used in our now drafted manuscript for the third book in the series. The book starts as we drop Meg and Hawk into a post-hurricane search-and-rescue mission, and it’s a shock for Meg to hear drones in the air when she’s been conditioned to recognize them as deadly. But in this case, as we are sadly seeing right now in Texas, drones can safely fly over flooded areas and can send back specific images to help pinpoint searches, potentially saving lives when time is of the essence.

Photo Credit: REDOG