Ace (2000 – 2013)

The story of “Mace” began tragically. This Yellow Lab began his life in Fremont, CA, with an owner who abandoned him and, unbelievably, tied him to a railroad track. He was then sprayed with mace and left to die. He was found and taken to an animal shelter, where he was scheduled to be euthanized.

But this Lab was a survivor! At the eleventh hour, Mace was rescued by one of SDF’s firefighters, who had been alerted by a shelter employee. After a short recuperation, Mace’s potential revealed itself and he was soon on his way into the SDF program. Mace was placed in one of our loving Canine Prep Homes to regain trust and confidence in people, and was given his new name, “Ace”. He displayed the characteristics ideal for a search dog: high energy, tenacity, endurance, strength, speed, and a strong “play/prey” drive.

After three months, Ace moved on to Sundowners Kennel to begin formal training. The trainers agreed that Ace had the vigor, fortitude, and skill to become a successful Search Dog. By the end of six months of training, he was partnered with Teresa Ortenberger with California Task Force 7. Teresa and Ace achieved FEMA Certification together and in September of 2005 they deployed to Hurricane Katrina.

Enter Rob Cima, a fellow SDF handler and Assistant Fire Chief with El Dorado County Fire near Sacramento. Rob had lost his Search Dog Harley to cancer in November of 2006. Teresa had two certified dogs—Ace and Remi—and, out of respect and admiration for Rob, decided to give Ace to him. They were an excellent match, and in March of 2007 Rob and Ace achieved FEMA Certification and were then Re-Certified in December of 2009 in Sun Valley, CA, ensuring that they maintained deployment readiness.

After his lengthy career, Ace enjoyed a happy, active retirement at home with Rob and his family in El Dorado Hills, CA. With the right amount of patience and affection, an abandoned pet on the brink of death had become a highly trained, much loved, and well cared-for Disaster Search Dog.

Sadly, on January 24, 2013, Rob had to make the hardest decision of a canine handler’s career when he said goodbye to Ace at the vet’s office. Ace’s health had been steadily declining and Rob made the heartbreaking choice to not let his partner suffer. At twelve years old, Ace crossed the Rainbow Bridge with Rob at his side—gone but certainly not forgotten.