Alabama’s Brave and Loyal Search and Rescue Pooch Vies for Top Spot in American Humane’s National Dog Competition

Not all superheroes go around wearing capes, as some sport search and rescue backpacks instead. Let me introduce you to Kusse, a German shepherd whose name translates to “kisses,” and who tirelessly helps locate those who are missing or will never make it back home.

Kusse is an expertly trained search and rescue dog, residing in Sheffield, Alabama with her owner, Cory Speegle. She has been named a semi-finalist for the American Humane Hero Dog Award and has already garnered over 500,000 votes cast in the search and rescue category. It’s a well-deserved honor for this hardworking dog. Other categories in the competition include Military Dogs, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Law Enforcement Dogs, Shelter Dogs, and Guide/Hearing Dogs.

From the moment Speegle welcomed Kusse into their family as a puppy, he knew that he wanted to train her in search and rescue. With dedication and hard work, Kusse has now become a natural at finding people, which has led her to win the national contest. The contest is not only about showcasing her skills but also includes a glamorous gala event and a special two-hour feature on the Hallmark Channel.

Kusse’s training has involved working with the Emergency Management Association, attending numerous search and rescue classes, learning advanced building searches, and even undergoing boat training to find bodies in the water. Speegle, who is also a volunteer firefighter for the Spring Valley and White Oak Fire Departments, proudly shares that Kusse’s mother is a “German Shepherd from the Czech Republic,” while her father is a second-generation explosives dog who was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

Receiving calls for assistance from Sheriff Frank Williamson of Colbert County has become routine for the duo. One of their recent missions was responding to the devastating F4 tornado that hit Cookeville, Tennessee on March 4th, 2020. Cookeville is located 79 miles east of the city of Nashville and serves as the county’s seat of government. Speegle, a member of the White Oak Volunteer Fire Department’s K-9 Search and Rescue team, alongside his trusty canine companion Küsse, were tasked with helping to locate survivors and bring closure to families with missing loved ones. The search was grueling and lasted for hours on end. According to Speegle, the scene was reminiscent of a bomb blast, and they remained until all missing persons were accounted for. Unfortunately, despite their efforts working tirelessly from March 4th until March 6th, 2020, they were unable to locate any survivors among the 27 individuals who were reported missing.

Kusee is a well-trained dog that uses the recall/find method to avoid scaring people with her barking. However, she still stays with young children and wears a GPS tracker that has a range of up to 9 miles for monitoring purposes. Kusee’s handler, Speegle, stated that she occasionally lays down and stays with small children. She can also perform scent article finds using items such as socks, hats, or shirts to locate a person’s whereabouts. Kusee can work both on- or off-lead and is capable of finding a lost person using their scent, even in a national forest. Some of Kusse’s recent searches include locating a 20-year-old marathon runner and a 6-year-old child who went missing during a storm. Although the rain caused Kusee to lose the marathon runner’s scent, she assisted law enforcement in the right direction to find him sheltering in a nearby field house.

During a search for historic graves in Legrange Cemetery, Leighton, Alabama, a 6-year-old child went missing, causing panic among the team of volunteers. However, with the help of Kusse, a search and rescue dog, the child was found safe and sound at the back of the cemetery near the wood line, after wandering off 200 to 300 yards. Despite the scare, Speegle and Kusse felt happy to have been able to assist in finding the child and are passionate about helping people. Speegle hopes that Kusse will continue to serve her community well and is proud to have her as his furry partner. If you would like to show your support for Kusse, please visit the Humane Hero Dog Award page and cast your vote. Don’t forget to share this heartwarming story with your loved ones.

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