Service — After reading a book on the subject, local woman decides to join search and rescue team

Tongue hanging out the side of her mouth, Opal may not seem like a highly-trained asset. But when she is it at work, she has one goal: seek and find.

“When she gets that harness on, she just does one thing,” Barb Turley-Linder said. “She wants to run for me and search.”

At eight months old, Opal has spent the last four months in training with her owner Turley-Linder as the duo become a search and rescue team.

“My son went in the Marine Corp, my daughter took off for college about the same time. I basically found myself going, ‘Hmm now what do I do,’” she said. “I read a book, ‘The Scent of the Missing,’ I’m like I can do that. It was such an incredible book I thought that would be something that would be great to do.”’

But first, she needed a SETH GORDON - Service duo - Volunteering with Search and Rescue wasn't something Barb Turley-Linder thought she would end up doing, but with Opal at her side, she is now certified and plans to start working this summer.

“It took me four months to find her because I really wanted to find a rescue puppy,” she said. “I was so discouraged, but I got home and opened my Facebook … and up popped a photo of Opal. She saw me and ran to me. It was like one of those little stories, just totally meant to be.”

As an avid hiker, Turley-Linder loves the outdoors. So when she decided to start search and rescue training, training Opal as an air scent dog seemed like the right fit.

“She does a hasty search,” she said. Starting at the person’s last known place, she searches the wilderness. “She just goes though at a very high rate of speed and finds any human scent, comes back, alerts me and takes me to them.”

That’s the plan anyway, Opal still has about a year left of training before she can see any action. But Turley-Linder completed her certification last weekend, which means she can start answering calls this summer.

“You learn so much watching that too,” she said. “By the time she’s certified I’ll have a year of experience under my belt which will really help.”

Working with Search and Rescue is entirely a volunteer position. Which means Turley-Linder is responsible for all financial aspects of serving, including expenses when called out and the equipment she needs each time.

“The financial side of this to get into it is very, very expensive,” she said. “You can do it with a lot less of the gear but to get the gear you need that’s $2,000. (Opal’s) medical kit alone they ask you to have is $200.”

But she said she was lucky. On a suggestion she started a GoFundMe to pay for expenses, and even though it was mostly family contributing, her goal was nearly met.

“It worked out really well,” she said. “It’s exciting to get the stuff I probably wouldn’t have.”

With a full summer of opportunities to volunteer, she said she’s excited to serve the community.

“It’s a great challenge,” she said. “It’s been a very interesting journey for me, this whole experience. Watching (Opal) work through processes, you think if I could work through stuff the way she processes, it’s amazing. I think that’s been a fun part too, she loves it.”

Turley-Linder is volunteering with Mountain Wave, a local search and rescue communications team. For more information about the organization, visit

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