Gunner & Alex Mengell

Team Info


Task Force: California Task Force 4 (CA-TF4)
Agency: Alameda County Fire
Level: DHS/FEMA Certified
Most Recent Certification: March 4, 2018


Search Dog Info


Breed: Yellow Lab
Sex: Male
Born: May 20, 2010
Recruited from: Dog Adoption Welfare Group (DAWG) – Santa Barbara, CA
Recruited by: Heidi Miller
Sponsors: Carol & John Marengo, Bradley Haas, Marith Levers
Named by: Lynn Loacker

In May of 2011, Dog Adoption Welfare Group (DAWG) of Santa Barbara, CA contacted SDF’s Canine Recruiter Heidi Miller-Mercer about a Yellow Lab named Grumps. DAWG had evaluated Grumps’ adoptability when his owners were no longer able to keep him in their home, and they saw instantly the characteristics that SDF is always looking for.

This beautiful boy had a great disposition, and Heidi said she knew right away that this dog had amazing working potential, observing that, “He searched tirelessly and never gave up until he found the hidden toy.”

Re-named Gunner by long-time SDF supporter Lynn Loacker, he was a bit sick when he arrived at SDF’s prep kennel. But after a few weeks of nursing and TLC, Gunner was on his way to Sundowners Kennel in Gilroy, CA and was ready to begin formal training. Trainer Kellee Matthews was a big fan of Gunner’s along the way, saying, “He is a nice, young dog, a serious worker and on top of his class.”

When he graduated in February of 2012, Gunner was paired with veteran firefighter-handler Alex Mengell of California Task Force 3. Gunner now lives with Alex’s family in Northern California, also sharing the home with Search Dog Nelson, who retired in January of 2012 after an 8-year career with Alex and SDF.

In October of 2012, Alex and Gunner traveled to Virginia Beach, VA to be evaluated and achieved FEMA Certification.

Two years later, on Halloween in 2014, Alex and Gunner were called to the scene of an apartment complex explosion. The explosion caused the first floor of the building to collapse and firefighters feared someone may be trapped inside. According to Alex, “the debris was 5 to 8 feet high… (but) Gunner had no indication of scent upstairs. We then moved down stairs and an off lead search was completed room by room. Again Gunner had no indication of scent.” Alex was excited about the team’s first deployment and looked forward to helping citizens the next time.

The team had their opportunity on April 11, 2015, when a vehicle was driven into a business in San Leandro. Alameda County Fire crews responded to the call and Gunner was an excellent resource to confirm that other than the driver, who sustained mild injuries, thankfully, no one else had been inside the building when the accident occurred.

As is required by FEMA, Alex and Gunner Re-Certified in March of 2018 and remain ready to deploy the next time disaster strikes!­