Volunteers, including K-9s, help with water recoveries across Tennessee

(Photo: WKRN)

CUMBERLAND FURNACE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In Cumberland Furnace there’s a group of specially trained volunteers who work the Tennessee waterways.

The volunteers, made up of men, women and K-9s, respond when rescue teams are unsuccessful and for each team member it’s a passion driven by a love of animals and the sheer desire to help people when they need it the most.

Robin Moore and Theresa Dabbs are spending their last days on the water with Tucker, their senior recovery dog, who is retiring at the end of the year.

The 10-year-old lab is trained and certified to locate human remains under water.

“He’s very slow, methodical at what he does,” Moore said. “He’s dependable.”

Moore has been breeding and training cadaver dogs for 15 years. She formed a team after reading about the dogs who located human remains in the rubble of Ground Zero after 9/11.

“I was like, ‘Man, I didn’t know dogs could do that,’” she recalled. “That was really interesting and at that time I had just got a new dog – a pup. He was about 2 months old.”

(Photo: WKRN)

Four years later, Moore and her first certified recovery dog Roscoe traveled to Waveland, Mississippi, where the eye of Hurricane Katrina hoovered over Hancock County.

“Total devastation,” she said. “We would just cover and make sure to have the dogs check to see that there weren’t any bodies left behind. Unfortunately, some were missed and we did help locate some of the bodies.”

The team goes wherever they are needed and travel an average of 5,000 miles a year.

“I had to work to help pay for this – to do it – but my true love is to work these dogs. I’d do it 24/7 if I could,” she told News 2.

The waters around Middle Tennessee yield heartbreaking stories of loved ones who never returned on their own and Dabbs shared that pain with two of her former elementary school students.

“They came running up to me and they hugged me and said, ‘Mrs. Dabbs! Mrs. Dabbs! Can you find our daddy?’ And my heart just dropped. Thankfully, we made that recovery.”

“It brings a peace to them to know that they have their loved one back and to know that you’re able to help them is very rewarding,” Moore added.

Christa Tucker joined the team three years ago and works with Daisy and Taz.

(Photo: WKRN)

“Sometimes law enforcement hands are tied and they can’t do any more and that’s why we are a free volunteer resource for law enforcement that they couldn’t otherwise afford,” she said.

After retiring, Tucker the Lab, will live the life of a therapy dog, which will allow him to bring comfort to those who need him.

The rest of the team will continue their search and recovery efforts as long as families are hoping for answers.

Moore and her team go out only when requested by law enforcement. Eighty percent of their assignments are water recovery.

Click here for more of Anne Holt’s Tennessee stories.