To provide, without cost, trained search and rescue personnel and K9s to the law enforcement agencies of Vermont and New Hampshire to assist in their efforts to locate lost and missing persons.
NEK9 is an airscent K9 team with over 37 years of search experience. At most search calls, we provide 5-10 K9 teams with field assistants/medical support from the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team (UVWRT). In addition to K9 teams, we provide our own radio communications, computer support, mapping software, and live GPS tracking. Each team searches a minimum of 80-160 acres in the first shift of 3-4 hours. Teams are managed by an Operational Leader (OL) who works closely with search management.
All of our teams are certified in finding both live and deceased subjects located on land, under water and snow and in debris. Teams are proficient at man-tracking, clue awareness and crime scene preservation.
In 1981, Richard Dennis moved to north central MA from NY. He had been a K9 handler with the Adirondack Rescue Dog Association who certified with the American Rescue Dog Association (ARDA). Richard wanted to start a SAR team and after purchasing a German Shepherd Dog from Donna Larson he asked her if she knew anyone interested in this work. The team soon had 4 handlers and a base radio operator signed up.
After 2 years of training NEK9 started reaching out to Law Enforcement in MA, NH and VT to offer its services. The team’s early searches were scattered throughout New England but NH and VT seemed to have a greater need for air scent dogs. Our first search in the NH was in 1983 and VT followed the year later.
During the 1980’s through working and meeting with NH and VT agencies, we started forming a unique certification program geared specifically to their needs. That included a mutual agreement that NEK9 would train dogs strictly for air scent and not tracking or trailing leaving that to LE K9 handlers. NEK9 also offered to search at night as the team was totally self-sufficient, the conditions were better for the dogs and the families of the missing person could be assured that searching would not end at dark.
Searching before technology such as cell phones, GPS and computers was a challenge. Handlers had to be proficient at map and compass and self rescue should their radio fail. Each member was required to have current copies of NH and VT gazetteers for drive directions to searches. Each member was provided with a dispatch phone number and stopped every hour to call on a pay phone checking the status of the search. In the late a 1980’s, the team purchased handheld altimeters to cross reference a given location on a topographical map. In 1999, NH Fish and Game approached NEK9 about the use of a handheld GPS and a program was developed to train NH SAR teams.
NEK9 continued to foster working relationships though meetings, sponsoring seminars and updating our certification to meet the changing needs of our user agencies. In 1998, NEK9 joined forces with UVWRT who provided navigators and higher medical skills to improve the POD of our search teams.
With over 800 searches spanning 37 years, NEK9 continues to update equipment, train rigorously and foster relationships with our user agencies and other SAR teams. In 2017, each member and canine was provided with a live tracking GPS that feeds directly into a mapping program. In 2018, NEK9 was approached by NH Fish and Game to start a pilot program for UAV (drone) usage on searches. In 2018, NEK9 was presented by the Vermont State Police with the Sergeant William Chenard Search and Rescue Award for having “…the highest standards of professionalism and training for their dogs and handlers. They are always ready to assist no matter what time of day or night … The Vermont State Police Search and Rescue Team relies on many different partners to assist them in carrying out their mission, but none are more important than New England K9 Search & Rescue.”
Activation starts with a call from the AHJ. 6-10 certified canine teams are on the road within 15 minutes of call out. This initial response gives search management the opportunity to search the first 1/2 mile of land surrounding the PLS (point last seen) within 4-6 hours managing a small number of trained resources.
At every search, a senior handler acts as OL (operational leader). Together with search management, the OL assigns teams based on the terrain and subject profile. The communications officer is the main conduit for the two-way flow of critical information using mapping software and live GPS technology.
Since 1998, NEK9 and UVWRT Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team have continued to develop a highly successful, cooperative training and deployment relationship providing ground support for handlers.
All services are provided free to law enforcement and to the families of those who are lost or missing.
NEK9 must be activated for searches by the Agency Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). These are the agencies we work with in our primary service area: