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BY MOLLY HAINES
N-H Staff Writer
Year after year, an unsuspecting citizen of Owen County arrives at the Owen County fairgrounds pavilion during fair week for a special reason. Some think they’re there to see a friend win an award or to watch a family member in one of the pageants.
This year, the Owen County Hard Rock K-9 Search and Rescue Team and the Grand Paws Search Dog Team arrived thinking they were there to do a demonstration with their search dogs. But instead, they were there to receive one of the most prestigious awards given in Owen County — the Owen Countian of the Year award.
“They had called one of us in advance,” Lannis Garnett, a member of the Hard Rock team said. “They wanted to get the whole team out there, but they didn’t want to tell all of us what was going on. They don’t usually tell people what’s going on, but they knew we had to get all of the dogs there too.”
According to the letter nominating the Hard Rock K-9 Search and Rescue Team, the team spends hours individually training their dogs as well as scheduled training sessions conducted by the state of Kentucky. Some sessions can last 3-5 days.
Each year, each member and their dog must pass an exam before they are certified to go into the field to work. Some of the places they train are General Butler State Park, Cove Springs Park, rivers, creeks, forests and farmlands.
The Hard Rock team has conducted as many as 110 searches and rescues in Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana.
Each member of the Hard Rock team is a volunteer. Each pays their own costs of food, clothing, vehicle and gas.
Four members of Hard Rock team — Lannis Garnett, Jackie and Marlin Webster and Celia Wright — are from Owen County.
“The greatest satisfaction the members receive is the ability through their search or rescue to bring some closure to a grieving family or friend,” the nominating letter said. “ ... We are blessed to have them living in our county.”
Garnett said he tried to express what receiving Owen Countian Of the Year meant to those from other areas who are members of the team.
“I know for me personally, I probably thought a lot more of it than the people on the team from out of town,” Garnett said. “They probably don’t understand what an honor it is to receive Owen Countian of the Year, and I tried to convey exactly what it did mean, especially to the ones of us who live here. It was a great honor.”
The Grand Paws Search Dog Team is also a voluntary organization that provides trained dogs, handlers, support and personnel to requesting agencies for the purpose of searching for lost or missing persons. Attempts are made to provide the same for body recoveries.
A member of the Grand Paws Search Dog Team could not be reached for comment.