On April 2, 2016, K9 Carvings was chosen for a special privilege. Through a mutual acquaintance of the producer, K9 carving was invited to reserved seating during the showing of “Searchdog,” shown at the Annapolis Film Festival March 31st through April 3rd, 2016.
Directed by Mary Healey Jamiel, this movie follows the professional life of Rhode Island State Trooper Matthew Zarrella, a dog handler in Search and Rescue. In scene after scene the audience discovers the men and women involved in this canine specialty, their reason for participating in this heart-pounding and emotional adventure and their long-term motivation.
Participating in Search and Rescue is either a volunteer activity or a Law Enforcement or Emergency Management specialty. At the volunteer level, participating individuals spend a significant amount of long rigorous hours learning their dog, search strategies, land navigation, first aid skills, and complex communication. This movie showcases Sergeant Zarrella, a law enforcement professional, in this specialty as he recounts his years growing up as a shy child, looking for a creative and singular outlet for his sharp mind.
As a teacher and trainer, Sergeant Zarrella rehabilitates high-drive dogs found in shelters (many of whom are deemed unacceptable as pets), and trains them and other willing officers in search techniques. The movie portrays many of his searches in live time so that the audience is brought into the drama and emotion of each mission. The director brings us up close and personal with the dogs, the trainers, the families, and even the victims. We hear the sincerity and zeal of the canine team, the anguish of family members when a search is declared unsuccessful and the determination of the dog team to reach an outcome.
There are multiple components to the search world, each striving to claim an outcome for the family, whether it is a victim that is found at last, or human remains that have long been sought. K9 Carvings was honored to be invited to share in this rare opportunity to preview such a meaningful documentary and presented Sergeant Zarrella with a casting of a search canine as a memorial to commemorate his gifted canine companions. We are hopeful that we can pursue a relationship with Sergeant Zarella, who is now retired, as he establishes his own canine business and specialty.
As a volunteer search dog handler and founder of K9 Carvings, it was personally gratifying to see the intensity of the training and the search so well portrayed. The general public has little idea of the hours, the expense, the manpower, and the skill sets that are required of a working team as they are deployed in response to a law enforcement request. In this volunteer activity, the working dogs willingly transform from loving and playful family members to highly trained canine professionals who work tirelessly at the will of their handler. Canine partners are totally focused on their task in the field searching acres of land and rough terrain if that is where they are deployed to search. There are times when they and their handler sustain injuries, but they move forward hopeful for a positive outcome and reward.
There is no love as resolute and unconditional as the love of the canine for his handler. They are truly our heroes.