The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 25, 2013

Rescue dog’s efforts being memorialized in children's book, newspaper series

JOPLIN, Mo. — There was a time not that long ago when Tara Prosser thought she had put Lilly’s story behind her.

“After a year and a half, two years, I kept telling her, ‘It’s time to do something else great and amazing,’” said Prosser, the owner and handler for Lilly, a search-and-rescue dog with the Newton County Rescue and Recovery Team.

But thanks to an upcoming children’s book and a newspaper series that will spotlight the efforts of the nearly 6-year-old Weimaraner after the May 22, 2011, tornado, Lilly’s story is poised to reach an even larger audience.

Prosser and her husband, Jeff — the operations manager for the Newton County ambulance service — found Lilly at Petland during an adoption event. It was love at first sight, but Prosser said she almost missed her chance to bring her home.

“We didn’t get her right away,” she said. “We went home to think about it. We went back the next day to get her and found out that she had been taken to Springfield. They called their store there and found out they still had her and shipped her back to us.”

After a few weeks, the Prossers said they noticed how intelligent Lilly was and started her in obedience classes. Both members of the rescue and recovery team, they thought that it would be a good idea to train her as a rescue dog.

The team assists in ground searches, diving searches and does volunteer work around the area.

“We discovered that search-and-rescue training is hard to come by in this area,” Prosser said. “We basically did it all on our own. I reached out to other people to get pointers, and I read everything I could on the Internet about K-9 search and rescue.”

The training included using samples of blood, bone and teeth for Lilly to sniff out, with the distance becoming longer each time.

“She had a nose for it,” Prosser said.

By the time she was 3 years old, Lilly was assisting the team with searches for missing people, drowning victims and evidence.

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