By Joanne Ewen, JD, EMT, DOT-I
K9 Handler

Northstar Search and Rescue ( is one of the leading K9 search and rescue organizations in Minnesota. I just became a member of it with my German Shepherd pup Coda, now 5 months old and absolutely loving the fun “game” of finding people in the woods and through high grass fields. We were invited to join by one of our EMSRB examiners, Ross Butterfield, who is the Deputy Chief of Northstar and partners with his awesome dog, Bosco.

When people go missing, sometimes only dogs, with their keen sense of smell, can find the person. Search and rescue K9s are trained to be able to track a specific scent until they find the source of it – the missing person. K9s can even track a scent that’s underwater or buried. SAR K9s can also be used at disasters to find any person, living or dead.

What do dogs have to do with EMS? Well, Northstar SAR is a Medical Response Unit, licensed by the State of Minnesota. We are an EMT and EMR staffed Unit. Think about finding someone who has been lost for a few hours to days; what condition will they be in, and who would be the best people on scene when they're found by K9 search dogs? You're right - EMS personnel.

Coda (pictured above) is training as an area search dog, which means off-leash air scenting large areas, and going to wherever the person is located, bringing the handler to the lost person. I have to train as a SAR Tech II and pass exams this January, both written and field-skills exams.

Check in here for monthly updates on our training!