The Suburbanite
  • Stray puppy finds calling in search and rescue

  • Two years ago, New Franklin resident John Conley and his family rescued a dog. Today, that dog is helping to rescue others.

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  • John Conely did not realize when he went to work one Monday in March two years ago, that his life would change.
    It seems the New Franklin resident had a real case of puppy love.
    As Building Maintenance Supervisor for Summit County, the Animal Control Building is under his supervision. It was in that building that Conley's eyes met with a three pound puppy that had one blue eye.
    He had been brought in to the facility over the weekend.
    “Some children had him and they were basically just throwing him around like a ball and the warden saw it and asked the kids about the dog,” Conley said. “They said they found him walking around in the street and the warden brought him to the pound.”
    The puppy was about four to five weeks old, had no siblings or parents. It was then Conley sent a picture from his phone of the puppy to his wife, Loree and said, “What should we do? We don't need another dog.”
    She told him to bring the dog home. He adopted him and his daughter, Rachael named him Willie.
    “He was not in good shape, we nursed him back to health,” said Conley.
    Another thing they noticed was Willie was petrified of cars. Even getting near a car he would vomit.
    “We were thinking he was probably dumped from a car,” said Conley.
    The car did not even have to be moving and Willie would react to it. It took about five months before they were able to get him traveling in the car without medication.
    Willie is part bulldog and the veterinarian figured him to be about 20 to 25 pounds, full grown. Conley said, “Turned out he is 112 pounds of baby. He just took off growing.”
    Willie also took to being educated.
    He went through all the obedience classes and graduated as a “top dog.” Conley said he was asked if he would like to train Willie for tracking. Not knowing totally, what breed he was, Conley said he would try, but did not know how well he would do.
    “We tried and he took to it and is really good at it,” Conley said. “He went through the programs, Tracking I and Tracking II and graduated into search and rescue.”
    Turns out Willie is a people and animal lover.
    He is great with people, children, other dogs and even llamas. Conley said Willie's nature is just really laid back. He gets along with everybody and has no problem getting along with other dogs, which is a plus for the search and rescue program.
    “He has been a great match with Loree, our other dogs and myself. Everyone enjoys being around him,” said Conley.
    Page 2 of 2 - Willie was meant to be a search and rescue dog, he has the natural ability to do so.
    Willie has to be on a special food diet as he has a lot of food allergies. He eats a product that is fish with no wheat or soy. It is those allergies that have led him to fame. His allergies have led him to fame. One of the Blue Buffalo brand foods works very well for him and the company has boosted Willie to fame. He has been on a couple of the company's trading cards and Willie is on the company's website.
    “He gets a lot of attention,” Conley said. “He is an unusual looking dog to begin with, but then his personality just seems to attract everybody.”
    Conley is proud of Willie and the fact that this former stay had been certified by the National Association of Search and Rescue as a full-fledged working dog after 15 months of intense training and has earned a place on the North Central Ohio K-9 Search and Rescue team, which provides services to law enforcement.
    The Conley family has several pets in their New Franklin home. Willie's adopted sister, Allie, a 4-year-old Rottweiler, also is involved in the tracking program.
    Martin Warchola is the owner of Best Paws Forward Dog Training Academy in Medina and is the coordinator of the search and rescue group. Conley said the group practices weekly working on search techniques. Someone will physically go out and hide for the dogs to find them. They are an all volunteer group that is called out to assist law enforcement.
    Willie and his four pawed friends put on a demonstration, May 11, of their talents at the Portage Lakes branch of the Summit County Library located on Manchester Road.
    Conley said Willie just takes to everyone and everything. “If you want to go hiking, he will go hiking, if you want to train he will train. He has not found anyone or any animal he does not like.”

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