Ellen and Tom Paiva, owners of Broken Arrow Dog Training and long-time SDF volunteers, rescued Jerry in September 2007. The first time Ellen met him she saw past his chunky exterior, recognizing his special “Search Dog spark” and his need to have a job!
“When we turned him out, it would take a while, but all of a sudden he really turned on. He would move entire wood piles to get to his toy, even logs that he could hardly get his mouth around. He was always looking for the next find—the bigger the better. He was a searching monster!”
When Jerry arrived at Sundowners Kennels in Gilroy, California the first order of business was to change his name from Baxter to Jerry, in honor of Gerald Stempler of the Stempler Foundation, a long-time SDF supporter.
Sharon Wolfsen, a trainer at Sundowners, remembers that Jerry was always ready for the search, often before they were ready for him. “He was a really strong dog. The first time we had him search on a rubble pile, we couldn’t even get him to stay in the crate long enough to get a collar on him.” The trainers worked with Jerry day in and day out to the point where Jerry was ready to be paired.
Jerry was paired with his handler, Bruce Hale, a firefighter with Orange County Fire Authority and California Task Force 5, in January of 2008. Bruce could see something special in Jerry, just as Ellen had, and was told by lead trainer Pluis Davern, that Bruce had a lot to look forward to in Jerry. “He’s a really energetic dog with a lot of puppy in him. I was told that he was going to give me 110%, and he has lived up to that expectation.”
Jerry’s rambunctious behavior turned to focused drive thanks to Bruce’s hard work. “Jerry is always happy to meet new people and show that under his tough-looking exterior is a very big heart.”
At Bruce’s home, Jerry fit in well with Bruce’s three other Labradors. At work, Jerry was quickly one of the guys. “We’ve run a couple of calls on the engine with him and he does fine, holding on, with his ears flapping in the wind. He’s also had his first school program and held his own with a whole classroom of children.”
Jerry progressed well and the team continued to train several times a week. Jerry and Bruce passed their Foundational Skills Assessment test in September 2008, and began training for their FEMA Certification, which would allow them to deploy to disasters nationwide.
When Bruce was unable to continue on as a handler, Jerry was reassigned to Mark Schroeder of Nebraska Task Force 1 in November of 2010. Jerry and Mark looked like a well-suited team but then it was discovered just a few months later that Jerry had dysplasia in one of his hips, an abnormal formation of the hip socket that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause painful arthritis of the joints. The decision was quickly made to retired Jerry so as not to aggravate his condition and risk putting him in harm’s way.
Jerry was officially retired on December 27, 2011 and lived a good life as a pet in Mark’s home with his family in Nebraska garnering Jerry tons of love and attention as a member of their pack. On February 20, 2018, after years spent with the Schroeder family, Jerry crossed peacefully over the Rainbow Bridge.