It was hard to ignore the watchful eye of ‘Moxie’ the German Shepherd as he stared into the parking lot next to the Danbury Fire and Rescue Station this past Sunday, April 3; Three of her nine-week-old male pups played with volunteer firefighters and children, and she was a proud but nervous mother.
One of those pups, a blue-collared male named ‘Rocky’, is set to become the newest local search and rescue dog, but he has bigger things to worry about. now, including how his two little brothers seemed to be getting more attention than he was.
Rocky the German Shepherd puppy has been donated to Danbury Fire & Rescue for use in future search and rescue operations, and was made with a very specific case in mind: the disappearance last year of Ashley Miller Carlson, the mother of Grantsburg, 33. four who had been missing for months before they were found in Pine County, Minnesota, last fall. Her disappearance sparked a flurry of searches and other efforts by volunteers and law enforcement over a nine-week period, ultimately leading to her discovery in a rural area, with many questions still unanswered.
“The dog will be donated in Ashley’s honor,” said Nora Miller, Ashley’s grandmother, who praised the efforts of individuals and groups involved in the expanded search and rescue efforts. She noted that there are few specialized search dogs in Minnesota and Wisconsin and she hopes little Rocky will help find missing people of all ages for years to come.
Mary Anderson of Sunshine Kennels is donating the pup, and she was on hand to keep the critters discussed amongst the excitement, while noting how important it is to have such a dog available, when needed, to lost or missing children, the elderly, or dementia patients, and in unusual cases, like Ashley’s.
“I was Ashely’s guidance counselor growing up,” Mary said, highlighting her own connection to the tragedy and her family, while mentioning that when Ashely first went missing, they tried to help with the search but had a basic problem. . . “There is a real shortage of search dogs, that’s for sure.”
Mary said that when this litter of puppies from Moxie arrived, they knew what had to be done.
“We thought that would be perfect, because we can do this on Ashley’s behalf, and the dog can grow up and find his people, hopefully much faster than 90 days,” exclaimed Mary.
The effort to train such a dog will not be easy, as evidenced by the energy and attention span the pups displayed on Sunday. But luckily, all four of Ashley Carlson’s children were on hand to help with the pup feud and to help note the significance of the event and the tragic loss of their mother, where the uncertainty of her whereabouts led to months of grief and uncertainty, something that Nora wants other families to never experience.
“We want good things to come out of this horrible thing (Ashley’s disappearance and death),” Nora said. “This way, no one should have to wait that long (for a search dog) when time is so important.”
Ashley’s body was found late last November in a wooded area of Ogema Township in eastern Minnesota, a few miles from where her car was found in September. As Nora pointed out, while Ashley’s car had been discovered in a remote area, partially submerged, they had difficulty finding search dogs to help them and said there are only a couple of such animals in the entire state.
“We’re trying to shorten the time it takes to bring in a dog to help,” Nora said, “so that others don’t have to wait as long, as we did, for nine terrible weeks.”
The new search dog is just a puppy, but Anderson said the dog was bred just for those future “jobs,” and Nora said such a unique bloodline would normally cost the police or fire department up to $5,000. plus the hundreds of hours of specialized work. Training and field work is required to hone the canine’s skills.
Rocky will live with a member of the Danbury Fire and Rescue squad, Tiffany Meyer, who along with her family will not only raise the Shepherd, but also undergo rigorous training for such searches.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what that includes,” Meyer said with a smile and a shrug. “I guess we’ll find out!”
As the pups frolicked around the firehouse, Ashley’s children helped play, and her daughter, Willow, hugged Rocky and whispered to the little ball of black and brown fur, flashing a smile her late mother will never see. .
“We just want something good to come out of this tragedy,” Nora repeated as she watched her great-granddaughter smile. “If we had had a dog like this when we started our search, it could have been reduced to a few days… or even hours, instead of so many weeks of holy hell.”
While Nora admits that nothing may have changed, at least by finding her granddaughter’s body, they were able to start the closing process and help others avoid so much uncertainty.
Ashley’s family hopes that more answers will be revealed in her tragedy, since the case is not closed, and they hope to have the necessary closure to move forward.
“It wasn’t a complete shutdown, but like my husband said, at least we got her out of the cold and brought her home,” Nora said with a sigh.
As the three pups frolicked with the children and firefighters, mother Moxie watched intently, sighing from time to time, showing concern and concern as only a mother can.
It took a while, but he seemed a little better afterward, thinking that maybe Rocky is in good hands now.