A Woman’s Best Friend
By Lena Basha
Volume 140, No. 5, September/October 2006, Page 5

When Sandy Sperry first saw Brownie wandering alone on a country road, he was severely malnourished, about 35 pounds underweight, infested with fleas, ticks and worms and in need of a good home. Ms. Sperry had never had a dog and didn’t know what to do with one, but one look at the amber-eyed hound was all it took to change her mind.

“I looked at Brownie’s sweet face, and there was absolutely no choice—I had to bring him home,” she says.

That was almost five years ago. Today, after being nursed back to health, Brownie is now a certified search and recovery dog that specializes in finding human remains. Together he and Ms. Sperry work as volunteers with the Portsmouth, Va.-based V K9 Scent Specific Search and Recovery Unit, a job this retired human resources executive from New York City never in a million years thought she’d be doing.

Whenever they’re needed, Ms. Sperry and Brownie are called to a site—sometimes far from home—where they meet up with other team members and their K9s to search for a scent trail. In Brownie’s case, he has been trained to sit when he finds human remains. Once a dog finds something, the team calls in local law enforcement to take over the case.

“It’s certainly been an adventure,” Ms. Sperry says. “Even if the person is not alive, even if the news isn’t good news, at least we’re able to bring the person ‘home’ and close the case.”

Ms. Sperry admits that she’s always a little worried that she’ll run into a snake, but says overall she feels very safe when she’s on the trail with Brownie. “It can be scary,” she says. “But we very rarely go into a situation without armed law enforcement.”

During a case last year, a property owner threatened to shoot team members and their dogs if they were found on his property.

Still, Ms. Sperry says she would not trade working with Brownie and helping solve cases for anything.  “Watching Brownie and all the other dogs work is always so amazing to me,” Ms. Sperry says. “Most people only consider their dogs as pets or companion animals and don’t give them much credit. But to see a K9 work a case is one of the most wonderful and humbling things I have experienced. And the loyalty and love they give back to their handlers is absolutely amazing.”

When she and Brownie aren’t working search and recovery, Ms. Sperry stays busy as Regent of the Edenton Tea Party Chapter, Edenton, N.C. A DAR member since 1972, Ms. Sperry transferred to the Edenton Tea Party Chapter after moving to nearby Hertford, N.C., when she retired.

The 56-member chapter recently held a fund-raising luncheon for the Crossnore School, a DAR-supported children’s home and school in the western North Carolina mountains that serves children who, due to circumstances beyond their control, can no longer live at home.

“The school is exactly what the DAR is about,” Ms. Sperry says. “Children are our future. We have to raise them properly, prepare them for their future, and we have to show them that they are important and that they are loved and needed.”

Credit: Photo by Sandy Sperry

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