Sandie Adams-Bruins and her dog, Bleu, are always packed and ready to go. When the phone rings, they drop everything to help a family in need.
Many times that means in the middle of the night. After a call comes in, all Sandie has to do is put on her work clothes and the bloodhound knows it's time to go. Because time is the most important thing when you're searching for a missing person.
Sandie and Bleu (aka Bubba Bleu Moonshine) are two of the founding members of Minnesota Canine Search Rescue and Tracking, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding the lost and missing, with the help of expert sniffers like Bleu.
Minnesota Canine Search Rescue and Tracking is available day or night to assist family members, law enforcement, and fire departments in finding people, whether it's a lost hunter, vulnerable adult, or missing child.
And they never charge a fee for their services.
Search for missing man started it all off
It all started in the summer of 2014, when 25-year-old Christopher Rossing went missing near Howard Lake, Minnesota. Sandie heard volunteers were needed, and she so went, bringing her bloodhound along – even though he had no formal training.
"We had been playing search games, as I wanted to get him into search and rescue but didn't know who to talk to about that, or where to go," Sandie told GoMN.
The search ended up lasting several weeks, until volunteers found Rossing's remains in a nearby city. During this time, Sandie had connected with another volunteer, Erin Fredricks. The two became fast friends and decided they wanted to continue helping people find missing loved ones using trained dogs.
After some intense training, Sandie and Bleu were certified in "mantrailing," which is where the dog works on a long lead and is "scent specific." That means they can follow a person based off of their smell.
Today, the team based in Silver Lake has grown to three search dogs with two more currently in training. In an emergency situation, they'll go anywhere in Minnesota, northern Iowa, eastern North and South Dakota, and western Wisconsin.
Their search dogs include McKenzie, a Portuguese Water Dog specializing in human remains detection; Bleu, the 5-year-old Bloodhound certified as a distinguished expert maintrailer; and Bootlegger Jack, an 11-month-old Bloodhound, who was certified in mantrailing at only nine months old.
The team operates out of their own pockets with help from generous supporters' donations.
"We couldn't do what we do without them. We are not independently wealthy by any means. We all have day jobs with understanding employers, but when we leave for a search, we are giving up our income at our jobs," Sandie says.
Q & A
Outside of the search and rescue group, Sandie Adams-Bruins is a 56-year-old wife, mother, and grandmother, a full-time sales manager at First Rate Trailers in Waverly, and a wildlife artist.
People could call you day or night needing your help – that's a huge commitment. How do you fit this into your life? My family is so supportive and they understand that we (Bleu and I) could make the difference between life and death. They know that when the phone rings, every moment counts. So does Bleu! He knows if I go to change into certain clothes immediately after a phone call, we are going to work, and he starts baying in the house – no matter what time it is.
Was there a need for a canine search group in MN? Law enforcement agencies are operating on tight budgets, and many times in a lost or missing person situation, they are stretching their resources very thin. A trained group like ours can make a big difference for them, and they really do appreciate the service we provide, as do the families of the people we search for.
What makes a dog a good searcher? A search and rescue canine should have a strong desire to play and a strong prey drive. It seems that the Bloodhound is a natural at this, and all we have done with the dogs is to harness their desire to "find" and to keep them focused when the search gets difficult.
To Bleu and Jack, it's a game that they love to win.
What's the group's proudest moment? We have several. There are multiple stories that you've heard about on the news, and don't realize that we were actually there working the case. We pride ourselves on getting out before the press comes in as often as possible, because we never want it to be about us.
Our dogs are simply amazing and they love their jobs. Even when the end results have been the worst case scenario, at least we brought answers to the families.
What's in the future? As a group, we would like to add a "Live Scent" team. This could be utilized in a disaster situation where we are looking for live victims, in a flood or tornado situation, or a building collapse.
We intend to keep going, and possibly grow to a point that we can actually train and donate search and rescue canines to law enforcement agencies, and fire departments.
Eventually, I'd like to spend full time with my canine partners working in search and rescue, then have them lay at my side while I'm working on my art. Ahhh pipe dreams.
Meet the Minnesotan is a new weekly feature at GoMN focusing on creators, do-gooders, and interesting people throughout our state. Do you know someone who should be in the spotlight? Email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.