Dog Finds Dog

The remarkable story of how Akka the rescue dog found one of her own

By Michelle Frye, DVM, SM

Jo, the family dog of Michelle Frye

Search and rescue dogs perform incredible acts of heroism and bravery—both on the battlefield and beyond. Michelle Frye, IDEXX Medical Affairs marketing manager, shares her personal and moving story of one special rescue dog named Akka, who helped bring Michelle’s family back together.

Moving can be stressful for every family member, even the four-legged ones. This is especially true when you relocate to another country. The Netherlands is possibly the most dog-friendly place on earth, but it was still unfamiliar territory for our dog Jo. One Saturday afternoon last November, our front door was accidentally left open by a workman and Jo decided to do some exploring. When we returned a couple of hours later, she was nowhere to be found.

Neighbors helped us search all over, but hours later we still couldn’t find her. No one slept that night. We spent all Sunday looking to no avail. We contacted the shelters, police and animal ambulance but there were no sightings. We littered the area with missing dog fliers and knocked on doors. No luck. Nothing on Monday either. By this point, we were all panicked and starting to lose hope. It was cold. Jo has a total hip replacement and cannot walk far without hurting. We had looked everywhere, calling out until our throats were sore. There were many tears; the loss of a pet is terrible, but the uncertainty of a lost pet is also heartbreaking. We had tried everything to find Jo. Or so we thought…

Desperate, my husband contacted a search and rescue dog service. The handlers agreed to bring rescue dog Akka down to help us look. We were hoping she could point us in a specific direction or maybe help us find Jo’s body. To be honest, I worried that my husband had lost it. I have never heard of a search dog being used to find another dog, just missing people. It had been days, and I didn’t feel good about our chances (or sanity).

Akka arrived Wednesday afternoon. Her handlers took her into our home to smell Jo’s bed and toys, and five minutes later she was off, sprinting out the door with her handlers running right behind. We all struggled to keep up as Akka tracked Jo’s course. It was amazing. People tend to go in straight lines but dogs apparently roam freely in a very zigzag pattern. Akka lost her scent a couple of times but managed somehow to find it again. To watch her work was amazing—I have never been more humbled to be a veterinarian than I was when following behind this incredible dog.

After an hour and a half, Akka suddenly stopped and barked. We couldn’t see anything. Akka refused to budge and stared low and straight ahead. Behind a fence and across a canal, Jo was trapped under a dock. We ran around the fence and jumped in the canal (which was as completely unpleasant as you might imagine) to get to Jo. The canals here in the Netherlands have steep sides and there is no way she could exit once she had fallen in. Fortunately, she managed to find a ledge to clutch to keep from drowning.

Jo was in shock and afraid but, amazingly, still alive. Intravenous fluids, warming blankets and supportive therapy brought her back to her happy-go-lucky self. All thanks to Akka—beautiful, brilliant, incredible Akka.

There are many things to be thankful for in life. We are most thankful for Akka, a search and rescue dog with extraordinary talents who reunited our family.

Michelle Frye, DVM, SM

Michelle Frye, DVM, SM
IDEXX Laboratories

Dr. Frye received her DVM from the University of Georgia and her master’s degree in infectious disease epidemiology, specializing in molecular genetic testing, from Harvard University. She completed her residency and fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she worked on field outbreaks and quality assurance for laboratory testing. Dr. Frye is the marketing manager for IDEXX Medical Affairs Department and manages the North American Advisory Board.