Written by Hazel’s owner- Carly Trobridge
Having grown up in a family that loved dogs, I hadn’t spent any period of time without a four-legged best friend. One of my most beloved childhood pets was our black Labrador, Odin, who lived a full and wonderful life until 14 years of age. As an adult, and going through a difficult separation, I found myself longing for another lab. After some online research one sunny day in June, I came across Eromit Labradors and knew this was the breeder I would bring a puppy home from. Always active, I was looking for a companion on my many adventures- hiking, camping, biking, fishing. I even thought about wading into the dog sport world- maybe something along the lines of agility would suit us!
I placed my deposit on a Kimber x Victor puppy in June 2014, with my first preference being a yellow male, and spent the summer dreaming about bringing my puppy home. In September, Erin emailed to say Kimber was in heat and she would be breeding her soon. Shortly after, another email followed, this time to let us know that Victor’s sperm counts had been zero and breeding plans would need to be changed. The new plan included Chester as the sire, but as he didn’t carry the yellow gene I would have to choose between a black or chocolate puppy. Decision made, I settled on a chocolate male and began the wait for news of the litter’s birthday.
Kimber’s puppies were born on November 6th, 2014. It had been a difficult labour, and two puppies had survived; one chocolate female and one black female. Something tugged my heartstrings about this litter, and I knew I wasn’t meant to wait. The chocolate female would be coming home with me in January. Hazel, as she was named, was a precocious and assertive puppy. Through the incredible community Erin has built with her puppy owners, my path crossed with a woman, Janet, living in the same community as me and who also had an Eromit puppy who was just six months older than Hazel. Quickly, we became friends and I also became enthralled with her volunteer life- Search and Rescue. Hazel enjoyed the games of hide and seek that Janet taught us, so I thought it seemed logical that I start down the path of SAR certification so I could begin the long process of training a SAR dog. Hazel and I validated as a SAR K9 team for the first time in April 2017, with the RCMP Police Dog Service and as a member of Nanaimo Search and Rescue.
Just six months after the success of our first validation, Hazel suffered what could have been a fatal accident on a search near Horne Lake, BC. In the dark, she failed to realize we were on a bridge and leapt over the edge, landing roughly 30ft below in the river bed. Terrified, I was sure the fall was not survivable and began the descent to search for her- not sure what I would find when I arrived. After some quick searching I found her, unconscious, but with no apparent external injuries. By this point, my fellow SAR members were converging on our location to begin a rescue for us. The rescuer, being rescued. Once extracted, we began the hour drive escorted by an RCMP member to our 24 hour emergency vet. Hazel had suffered severe internal injuries in the fall, but after quick intervention and high quality care, she would be released just 24 hours later. My girl was coming home.
What followed were months of rehabilitation, both for Hazel physically and myself emotionally, The stress injury that remained in me was apparent, however I was determined that this dog had so much more to give to our community. On our first search following the accident, just four months later, Hazel located our missing subject and we had the incredible honour of bringing closure to a grieving family. In the years since, Hazel and I have been lucky to have had other successes in searching; again the honour of bringing closure to grieving families and also the honour of reuniting happy families with their loved ones.
The little dog that could. Hazel has the best parts of both Kimber and Chester, and I have no doubt our fates were to be a team. Thank you, Erin, for the best dog.