Amber: The Marshall Fire Good Dog Gold Medal Hero

Our team at Big Barker greatly appreciates all the things dogs do to help their communities. We are eager to share the stories of Good Dogs doing amazing acts of service in their communities on our blog. Here are some photos of a great dog we had the privilege of meeting, named Amber! Check out her story and the program she works hard for below!

The Marshall Fire in Colorado on December 30, 2021 was the most destructive fire ever in Colorado history in terms of property loss. It ruined nearly 1,100 residences in Boulder County. A fire started in Superior and Louisville on Dec. 30 and spread ravenously across dry grass fed by fast-moving winds with gusts exceeding 100 mph as it spread from west to east.

Marshall Fires

It ruined nearly 1,100 residences in Boulder County, including 9 percent of the housing stock in Superior, a onetime mining town that had evolved into a suburb of 14,000.

Residents, firefighters, and emergency responders all documented the fire's destruction through video, photography, and audio recordings. People watched from shelters, friends houses and families houses as  the fire burned through their houses and shops.

A state of emergency was declared in all 66 Colorado counties by Governor Tom Norton after the fire had reached Fort Collins, a half-hour drive from Boulder. Fires spread to Fort Collins through the neighboring town of Loveland, also damaging homes. Additionally, many people were unable to get home in time for the evacuation, and watched in horror as their homes burned to the ground, not knowing what was happening to their beloved pets. Some pets, like Jedi, had a happy ending, but for many, the ending was not so happy.

Jedi and his family after a happy reunion, photo courtesy of CPR News

Heroes in the Midst of Trials

But for many families, the lack of closure was eating at them as the days and weeks dragged on in the aftermath of the Marshall Fires and their pets were still not found. They were struggling to know if their dogs were lost and if there was hope, or if they had passed in the fires. 

An organization named Justice Takes Flight knows that feeling all too well and have dedicated their lives to making sure that families receive the closure that they deserve. Justice Takes Flight is "a non-profit group that helps Colorado families find their loved ones. We help in a variety of way from flyers to bloodhounds." In the chaos of the fires, the organization brought forth their very own hero, named Amber.

Justice Takes Flight

Britney Workman and Search and Rescue dog handler Duffy responded quickly to the Marshall Fire by leaping into action with their working dog, Amber. Their mission: finding pets and pets' remains. "Amber has been training since day one, as a pup. Amber is trained to track humans and animals, and cadaver (HRD)", says Brittany Workman, when asked about Amber's skillset. "Amber trains three days a week to keep up her skills". 

Because of the large number of scent receptors on Hound Dog’s noses and their strong tracking abilities, law enforcement use this frequently to find escaped prisoners, missing people, and pets. Amber is a Hound Dog who operates highly efficiently on scent. As a matter of fact, she has nearly 300 million scent receptors on her nose! With this strong strength of smell, Amber was able to use items of lost pets, such as toys/blankets/leashes to begin to track them. Amber quickly got to work in the ashes and debris of what was once people's homes and lives.

Amber at the Marshall Fires

In total, Amber was able to help 33 families who had lost their pets. She gave hope to some families by signaling that their pets scent was not found in the debris of the home, indicating that the pets had escaped the fire. She provided closure for others, finding the pet remains in the fire. Although this wasn't the news that pet parents want to hear, they cried out in gratitude that they wouldn't be left to wonder about the 'what if's' forever. 

Because of Amber's selfless deeds, Big Barker awarded Amber an Official Good Dog Gold Medal winner, and she proudly wore her new medal on her new SUV Big Barker bed

"Amber wakes up from a great sleep from her new bed. She eats breakfast then hangs out with her fellow bloodhound housemates until it's time to work. Then she loads up in the SUV, on the new comfortable travel bed. Off to work they go. Amber is much more comfortable which helps her do her job better", says Workman.

Although some families are still searching for closure, the incredible and heroic job that Amber performed will never be forgotten. Thank you, Amber and the amazing Justice Takes Flight team for all of your service! 

Did you know? Big Barker beds are specially engineered to help dogs with joint conditions like hip dysplasia. Click here to learn more.

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