Jill Hollman-Walker met Sherman Greer, the now-retired Vanderburgh County Emergency Management Director, at Droste’s Jewelry Shoppe years ago and walked out knowing she was going to own and train a search and rescue dog.
Walker started training her Australian Shepherd puppy, Wily, at just 10 weeks old, regularly attending canine search and rescue seminars. Wily now has 12 years of experience and Hollman-Walker owns and operates EM K-9, a nonprofit search and rescue agency.
Dogs can smell particles at parts per trillion, and when properly trained can use that incredible sense of smell to help trail, track, search, and find missing people, narcotics, or even bomb making materials. Wily has completed the highest level of search and rescue certification from the National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR) which means he can accurately search an acre of land with only a cotton swab sized piece of evidence.
“The dogs that we train are scent specific,” says Hollman-Walker. “To present something that belongs to a specific person to the dog, and the dog follows only that smell is way beyond the realm of human thinking.”
Drew Sampson, a volunteer firefighter at Ohio Township and longtime neighbor of Hollman-Walker, now owns a 2-year-old Bluetick Hound named Maggie, partially thanks to Hollman-Walker.
“She (Hollman-Walker) told me about everything she does with the search and rescue dogs and it kind of always stuck in my head,” says Sampson. “It was fascinating to me that you could take a dog and do that.”
About a year later, Sampson adopted Maggie from the Warrick County Humane Society. Maggie passed the second-highest level of American Working Dog Association certification in April and works alongside Wily at EM K-9.
Law enforcement agencies reach out to EM K-9, short for Experience Matters, usually after all other resources have been exhausted, relying on the dogs’ scent training.
Wily and Maggie have helped in numerous cases in the Tri-State, locating evidence that is elevated, at ground level, buried, in a vehicle, in a landfill, frozen, or underwater. Maggie gets plenty of treats for her efforts, and Wily receives several letters, drawings, and even poetry as a reward for his hard work.
“I don’t think I’d have the incredible life I get to live without this dog,” says Hollman-Walker.