By Mike Pound
Just when Tara Prosser thinks her search-and-rescue dogs have run out of ways to surprise her they come up with something new.
In those dark days after the May 22, Tara and other search-and-rescue team members from around the country worked long, hard days and nights with their rescue dogs leading the way. It was physically taxing and mentally exhausting, particularly for those crews who lived in Joplin.
“It didn’t feel like home because nothing looked the same,” Tara said.
At the end of the day, or night, Tara and her rescue dogs would return to her home on 47th street.
“My home suffered some minor damage but at least I had a home to go to,” Tara said. “I would let the dogs out in the backyard and they would start playing. I watched them in awe. All I wanted to do was cry”
Tara is the chief officer for Paws K-9 Search and Rescue. The local group is made up of volunteers and for the most part team members pay their own expenses and raise their own search-and-rescue dogs. Tara also works for the Joplin school district. Her team includes a UPS driver, a hospital emergency room worker, a college student, a stay-at-home dad and a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.
Earlier this week, Tara sent an email to the Globe explaining what her group does. She didn’t send the email looking for praise or for thanks. Most of the folks who do search and rescue don’t do it for the glory — they do it because they want to help.
What Tara wanted to do was let folks know that Paws K-9 Search and Rescue is holding its annual yard sale fundraiser from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, April 14, at 1724 Harlem Ave. The yard sale will feature a trove of items graciously donated to the rescue team.
“We’ll have furniture, clothing, household items ... there will be a bed and bedroom furniture, plates, dishes, just about everything imaginable,” Tara said.
If you have items you would like to donate to the Paws K-9 Search and Rescue team’s sale, you can call Tara at (417) 850-7352 to arrange to drop it off or, if needed, to arrange to have someone pick up the items for you.
This year’s sale is being held at the home of Tara’s mother.
“She passed away on Feb. 24. She was a great dog trainer and was always very supportive of what I do. This year’s sale is in her honor. She would have liked us to do that,” Tara said.
Shortly after her mother passed away, Tara discovered that her mother had nominated Lilly, one of Tara’s two Weimaraner rescue dogs, for the 2012 Hero Dog Awards sponsored by the American Humane Association. Lilly was nominated for her work after the tornado.
“There were amazing,” Tara said of both her rescue dogs. “They got tired but they kept on going. It was like they knew they had a job to do.”
At the end of each shift Tara would find small puncture wounds on the pads of her dogs’ feet and scratches along their legs from walking through the debris, but the dogs, she said, never complained.
What makes Lilly’s story even more compelling is that a month before the storm hit she was close to death. Lilly developed a still undiagnosed immune deficiency. Veterinarians at Oklahoma State University were finally able to get Lilly’s health under control with medication a few weeks before the storm it. But, Tara said, when the storm struck Lilly was still sick and on medication.
“But she worked right through everything,” she said.
If you would like to cast a vote for Lilly in the Hero Dog Award, visit www.herodogawards.org/vote/?nominee=88791269# and then scroll down until you see Lilly’s name and photo. You may vote once a day.