PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Ava the search dog had a steak dinner Sunday night one day after very likely saving the life of a 2-year-old boy found facedown in brush behind a Northeast Portland market.
Ava is a specially trained German shepherd trained to pick up any human scent. Ava and her handler, Becky Irving, were brought into service as Portland police looked for the toddler.
Around 6 a.m. Saturday, the boy’s mother told police she woke up and discovered her son was gone from the bed. A massive search began and Mountain Wave Search and Rescue — along with their K-9 unit — was brought in to help.
“All of a sudden (Ava) just started dragging me so I’m trying to keep up,” Irving told KOIN 6 News. “She whipped around the corner of the building into this blackberry pile and basically I think she tried to avoid (the toddler) … As she did that, I looked down and there he was.”
There were nails on the ground in the area of the blackberry bushes where the boy was found on NE 68th Avenue, about 2 blocks from the boy’s home. Irving thinks Ava saved his life.
“If it hadn’t been for her smelling him and dragging me into that area nobody would have found him,” she said.
The boy was placed into protective custody. A court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday to determine the next steps.
Ava has been a certified search-and-rescue dog since she was 2. Irving would like her to retire when she turns 10 this December, but she still loves to work.
“The minute she hears my SAR pack come out of the closet she’s vocalizing at home,” Irving said. “She’s ready to work.”
They train 2 to 3 times per week, Irving said. “She’s tireless. I mean, we can do 8-hour operations. She just keeps going.”
Her reward, generally, is a ball that she loves.
“That’s the ultimate, is when she gets to the subject,” Irving said, “this is her reward.”
When Ava found the toddler — in a diaper, shivering and face down — she said she was “teary-eyed. I was kind of hyperventilating because I was so excited.”
Her job as a K-9 handler, though, is to attend to the dog at that point. She called the police over who actually picked the boy up from the blackberry bushes and took him to safety.
Ava has had one other live find — a bow hunter about 3 a.m. on a cold December morning. Irving said Ava’s also had several other human remains finds.
With retirement looming, Becky Irving wants to do what’s best for Ava.
“Well, I say she’s going to retire at 10. She may have a different opinion,” Irving told KOIN 6 News.
“She does have some spinal issues, so I want to keep her around as long as possible. So if she will put up with retirement, she will be retired in December.”