Ruben Rosario: A dog who's helped so many now needs help herself

The encounter took place moments after the service, at the end of the American Indian spiritual dance that helped the departed souls of the two young drowning victims reach the afterlife.

'I'm ready now to meet the dog,' the dead boys' mother, Alicia Rose White, told Nancy Sabin.

White, along with her other children and relatives and a throng of mourning community residents, walked outside the community center on the Red Lake Indian Reservation where the service was held and spotted Kyra.

The 6-year-old English Labrador was one of the three search-and-rescue/cadaver dogs that in April 2007 located the spot where the bodies of White's two young sons — 4-year-old Tristan Anthony White and 2-year-old Avery Lee Stanley — eventually were found.

The boys, who were nicknamed "Two Winds," vanished Nov. 22, 2006, after they wandered away from their home on the reservation. The missing kids touched off a frantic, massive five-day search by land, air and sea that yielded nothing.

It would be the following spring — the season of blossom and rebirth — when Nature would finally relinquish its hold on the boys. The bodies were discovered floating close together, encased in thin ice, near a beaver dam in the northern area of First Thunders Lake.

White, who had invited the dog and her handler to the service, approached Kyra. She knelt down, gently caressed the dog's neck and looked straight into Kyra's eyes. Then she tearfully thanked
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the dog for helping to find and bring her sons back to her.

The scene "was heart-wrenching, moving and beautiful," recalled Sabin, the outgoing executive director of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.

From missing college kids to adults and senior citizens, Kyra has taken part in more than 50 searches in the past five years in Minnesota and surrounding states. She's searched lakes, woodlands, forges, valleys and riverbanks. Trained to track human scent, dead or alive, she has located presumed suicide and homicide victims.

Some searches made the paper: Brandon Swanson, Dan Zamlen, Joey Kaiser and Leanne Warner, the often-forgotten and still-missing Chisholm, Minn., child. There was the search for potential victims of the ultimately deadly tornado in Hugo a year ago.

It's Kyra who needs help and rescuing now. She's suffering from two serious hind-leg ligament tears that prevent her from performing missions. Left untreated, they could jeopardize the dog's life.

Kyra suffered what her handler, Wendy Deane, of Otsego, described as cranial curiae ligament tears. They were first detected during a search this year for Swanson, a 19-year-old who vanished in May 2008 after abandoning his car along a dirt road in western Minnesota near Marshall.

The surgery, Deane explained, is called a TTA, or tibial tuberosity advancement. A vet told her the operation would cost about $6,000.

Deane has offered Kyra's services on the cuff to law enforcement and others as part of North Star Search and Rescue, among a few statewide nonprofit civilian-canine volunteer groups.

"We don't get paid for what we do," said Sharolyn Sievert, a Deane protegee of sorts and member of the nonprofit Central Lakes Search and Rescue group.

Deane is an accounts-payable employee at a Twin Cities landscaping firm. She grew up in the west metro area with a passion for the outdoors, dogs and humanitarian service.

Sievert says Deane can talk about Kyra all day long but talks little about herself or her dog's plight, essentially known only to those in the canine search-and-rescue circle.

Deane doesn't have the money to pay for the surgery. She laughed when I told her that maybe we needed a "public option" vet insurance plan for dogs like Kyra.

In fact, she said, there's a movement afoot in the nation's civilian canine search-and-rescue community to propose such a plan.

She added she was floored and touched when White told Sabin she wanted to meet the handlers as well as the dogs who found her sons.

"This was the first time ever that we actually attended a subject's funeral," Deane said. "I did not really want to go, because I thought that this wasn't about me or Kyra. But I really appreciated the meaning behind the Native American service and how they grieve."

Sabin recalls what happened right after the emotional meeting between Kyra and the grieving mother.

"The other children and the dog chased, played and ran after each other," Sabin said. "There were smiles and laughter after a day of mourning. They believe that we — humans and animals — are all connected and stewards of this Earth. And you saw and felt it that day."

Rubén Rosario can be reached at 651-228 -5454 or rrosario@pioneerpress.com.

FYI

To learn more about Kyra and the fundraiser to help the injured search-and-rescue dog, go to www.northstarsarda.com and click on "Kyra Vet Fund."

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