When Jessica Tuomela isn’t out running for an Olympic medal, she’s running an entirely different operation.
The paralympic triathlon competitor relies on her seeing-eye dog Lucy in her day to day.
This got her thinking about how she and Lucy could help more people together.
As a blind person, Tuomela is keenly aware of how amazing our other senses are. Training Lucy to fully utilize her sense of smell became a big focus.
She reached out to Scent Evidence K-9, run by former FBI agent Paul Coley.
He taught her the ropes of training dogs in scent training; the rest is history.
“Your scent is like a fingerprint, essentially. No one’s scent is the same. (Lucy’s) been through training where we’ve even used identical twins, and she can discriminate between them,” Tuomela told BlackPress Media.
Now, Tuomela and Lucy have become a dynamic search and rescue duo.
They’ve just rescued a missing woman with dementia after a high-speed chase. It was off to the races after Lucy got a good whiff of a scent preservation kit (essentially a swab that’s kept in a jar) provided by the missing woman’s family.
“I’m really glad I’m a triathlete because she was flying,” said Tuomela.
The pair searched together in Sannich, with a helpful bystander who guided Tuomela past any obstacles until Lucy knew precisely where the missing woman was.
When they got close, Lucy ran full tilt – into Elk Lake.
“I dropped the person that was helping me, and I’m like, ‘oh no’ – we go in the water, and I don’t know what’s happening at all. Then she stopped, and then the person we found started talking … My backup handler caught up and confirmed it was the right person.
All parties involved, the missing woman’s family, Tuomela and Lucy, were elated.
“Lucy loves her job – when she found the person (Wednesday), she was prancing and very proud of herself.”
This won’t be the last you hear of the duo, either. Tuomela has founded True North Canine, a Scent Trailing and working dog training service, and she hopes to help reunite many more families.