Sadie & Doug Van Iwaarden

Team Info


Task Force: California Task Force 5 (CA-TF5)
Agency: Orange County Fire Authority
Level: DHS/FEMA Certified
Most Recent Certification: June 5, 2016


Search Dog Info

Breed: Black Lab
Sex: Female
Born: October 4, 2010
Donated by: Nona Bauer
Prep Home: Jeff & Jill Wenig
Sponsors: Teddy Armstrong, J.C. Svec
Guardian: Karen Kamp
Named by: Nona Bauer

A beautiful Black Lab, Sadie’s story is a bit different from our usual SDF recruitment tales. She was discovered by long-time SDF supporter Nona Bauer in La Belle, MO in January of 2011. At the time, Sadie was only a few months old and too young to begin Search Dog training but had enough spirit and drive to make Nona think she would be a good candidate. Nona adopted Sadie for us and she was entrusted to Jeff and Jill Wenig of Santa Paula, CA as a prep home.

Friends to SDF Founder Wilma Melville, the Wenigs have in fact been the prep home to three of our Search Dogs over the years, caring for them and preparing them for their lives as service dogs until they are old enough to begin formal training. Jeff says, “Sadie was sweet and loving from the moment she got out of the car after her long drive from Missouri.  Her kind disposition lasted for the several months she lived with Jill and me.  In those early months there was no way, other than her genealogy, that she would become the search demon that I am told she is today.”

Sadie began at the Prep Kennel in Castaic with SDF trainer Kellee Matthews in March of 2011 and spent a couple of months learning the important building blocks of becoming a Search Dog – obedience skills, toy tug, and alert barking. When Sadie was transferred to our formal training center in Gilroy, she was ready to get to work. And work she did, being coached five days a week by trainers at Sundowners Kennel in preparation for graduating as a Search Dog.

In May of 2012, Sadie was partnered with her first firefighter-handler, John Stewart, of the Saratoga Springs Fire Department in New York. The team worked rigorously with New York Task Force 2, training throughout the week in order to prepare for their State Urban Search and Rescue Association (SUSAR) Certification that enables teams to deploy when disasters strike.

In July of 2013 John and Sadie achieved their basic SUSAR Type II Certification and by September earned their advanced SUSAR Type I Certification in Windsor Locks, CT. In November of 2014, Sadie and John, along with their teammates were called when a severe snowstorm hit Erie County, NY. The team spent 6 days searching mobile homes and inspecting buildings. After feeling confident no one was left behind, the teams were released from the scene and got some well needed rest.

Several months later, John decided to step down from the canine program but Sadie still had many years left in her career. The decision was made to have Sadie return to California.

She spent some time at the National Training Center fine tuning her skills, and was re-partnered with Doug Van Iwaarden of Orange County Fire Authority in January 2016. A veteran handler, Doug has made a fine match for Sadie. By living and working with Doug, the two formed an important bond that enables the team to understand one another’s body language and perform at their best while on the search. These two, perfectly paired, achieved Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Certification in Littleton, MA, on June 5, 2016. They are now ready to deploy with their task force at a moment’s notice!