Trevor came to the Watsonville Animal Shelter as a stray. She was in good condition but she was obese. Quickly, the staff recognized how over-the-top, high energy she was. While waiting to see if her owners would come to claim her, they exercised her to get her to burn up some energy. While in her kennel, she would run back and forth and spin in the air. This earned her the name “Twister” in the shelter. Anytime another dog was taken out of a kennel, or if anyone walked by Trevor, she would go crazy. She loved being outside running around. She especially loved playing fetch, so they would take her out to play many times a day. She has such a strong drive to fetch that on one occasion she collapsed from heat exhaustion and had to be put into cool water to bring her temperature down. As a result, she had directions on her kennel that stated, “Only play fetch a few times and stop” – because she would not stop on her own. It was as if she wanted to be in better shape and run off some of her pent up energy.
After no one called to claim Trevor, the shelter evaluated her and deemed her “not adoptable” due to her extreme high energy and drive. As a result, Trevor was scheduled to be euthanized when her rescuer Amelia Dinatale stepped in. Over the very short time Trevor had been in the shelter, Amelia had worked with her and recognized the special qualities she possessed, so she took her to Sundowner Kennels to have her Search Dog potential evaluated. She passed with flying colors! Amelia fondly remembers watching Trevor stay focused and succeed in every task Pluis and Kate at Sundowners put to her. There was clearly one thing Trevor needed to work on – swimming. It was clear to everyone watching her attempt to swim that she had never been in water before. After jumping into a pond, Trevor would sink and then flail around! She was able to paddle her way out and after pacing on shore she was overtaken by the drive to get her bumper toy that was in the water. She jumped in and paddled straight to the toy. At this initial visit, she was accepted at Sundowners. Because of Amelia, Trevor was given a second chance – and on top of that, a chance to be a working dog.
Over the course of a year, the team of trainers at Sundowners worked diligently with Trevor. The challenge was to channel Trevor’s energy and drive into the skills needed to be an accomplished Search Dog. She has a super high toy drive, but they had to work to teach her to bark for the toy instead of jumping up and down and wiggling like a salmon swimming upstream. Kate comments, “She wants to please but is very excitable. She gets so excited her eyes seem to gyrate. She is so sweet and needs people to believe in her.” Trevor’s Search Dog skills were honed at Sundowners. It wasn’t very long before she could easily find her toy in the rubble pile – she worked hard and it paid off.
While at Sundowners, another special individual became a part of Trevor’s life. Nelia Morgan, a loyal supporter of SDF, chose to Sponsor her and named her Trevor in honor of her father. She was also Guardian to another Search Dog, named Harley, who passed away in November of 2006.
After Trevor’s intense training at Sundowners, she was ready to be paired with a Handler. The search for the right partner for this powerful, high-drive dog led straight to Kevin Skinner. Kate says, “Kevin is ideal for Trevor. They are a caring, wonderful match; they appreciate each other. Tears of love filled the eyes of those at Sundowners when they watched Kevin and Trevor together.”
Since their pairing, Kevin and Trevor have been inseparable. Kevin is so proud of Trevor and so aware of her energy. Kevin feels he and Trevor are perfectly matched. He says they are both very high-energy and keep each other in check. They work extremely hard as a team. Although they are focused and committed to earning certification, Kevin is always keenly sensitive to Trevor’s well-being. Kevin speaks about the huge lifestyle change it has been to become a Handler. He says he and Trevor are truly blessed to have the support of his wife and three family dogs. Although Trevor is the youngest of the dogs and the newest addition, Kevin laughs, “She rules the roost. Soon after she arrived at the Skinner household she established herself as alpha dog.” Kevin describes Trevor as a sweetheart that nuzzles everyone. She loves attention and loves children. He goes on to say, “She is so loyal; she is a fabulous addition to our family.”
Trevor and Kevin were one of several canine teams in the Salinas Fire Department. Although they work different shifts, the teams do train together. Kevin and Trevor train a minimum of 20 minutes once or twice a day. Kevin keeps a log to make sure the training focuses on the skills Trevor needs to refine most. He says that she has no fear and possesses incredible agility. She will search any rubble pile with focus and will bark from any position. She trains hard and continues to strengthen the skills she needs to be a successful Search Dog.
Kevin and Trevor’s lives have been touched by many caring individuals: Amelia, Nelia, Pluis and Kate, the staff at SDF. Kevin is also very grateful for the support of his father, Michael Skinner. Kevin’s dad not only supported him through encouragement, he also sponsored Trevor. This was the first time in SDF history that a family member has been a Sponsor for that Handler’s canine partner.
Those who have watched Kevin and Trevor train together describe them as an ideal team. Kevin’s dad Michael describes his time with them like this: “Trevor spent a couple of hours in the office so my staff could get to know her. She is an absolute sweetheart and a people-pleaser. At the same time, there is no hiding the fact that she is an absolute ball of energy waiting to be set loose. She is totally focused on her toy when it is out and it is clear that, once fully trained, she will be relentless in her search…and she NEVER gets tired. She spent an hour going in and out of our pool, and looked like she could have spent the whole day there! We are all really proud of Trevor and Kevin, and we know they will be a great team.”
Sponsor Nelia Morgan had the opportunity to watch Trevor and Kevin navigate the Camarillo Airport Canine agility course. Here is how Nelia described them: “When I met Kevin and Trevor for the first time, I knew they were a match made in heaven. Trevor is a dream come true and I am so grateful to Kevin and his wife Kathy for their obvious love for Trevor, and to SDF for fulfilling my dream for this beautiful Search Dog.”
In October of 2007, Kevin and Trevor attained their advanced Certification from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This meant that on a moment’s notice, they were ready to serve the nation in the event of a disaster. This advanced certification is the highest level of certification recognized in the United States, and is a tremendous achievement.
The team was then able to put their skills to use in July of 2010 when a hiker went missing in Carmel Valley. Trevor did a wonderful job and Kevin was very pleased with her performance during their search.
After many years of service, Kevin made the decision to retire Trevor on December 21, 2012 at nearly 9 years of age when he noticed her hearing was failing. Trevor spent her retirement years happily at home with Kevin and his family, enjoying life as a pet.
Sadly, on June 26, 2018, Trevor passed away peacefully with Kevin at her side after battling failing health for a long time. Kevin shared with SDF:
“Trevor was deemed ‘unadoptable’ from the shelter in Watsonville, CA where she was rescued. It was very satisfying to see that proved wrong and to see her thrive in her role as a search dog. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity given to us by the Foundation and for believing in us.”