It took only a moment for Dixie, an 11-year-old nearly blind and deaf pug, to dash from her owner's backyard in Bluffton's Rose Hill Plantation in the morning and become lost in the brambles of the woods nearby.
But luckily for Dixie and her concerned owners, Kitty Fletcher and daughter Jamie, volunteers and trained dogs from the Urban Search and Rescue team, based on Hilton Head Island, were there to help. Dixie, shivering near a creek and whimpering but little the worse for wear, was found a few hours later about a half a mile away.
The group, made up of volunteers from Savannah, Beaufort and Jasper counties and their dogs, are trained to search for air scent and participate in cadaver searches, tracking and water rescues.
While most of the group's work centers on finding humans - living and dead - members also will search for missing pets, said Dan Fuller, the group's founder and director.
"Primarily, we search for humans, but if someone calls me - we're all dog people - and says their dog is missing, we are usually able to help," said Fuller, who organized the island team about seven years ago. "My fear in this case was that if the dog stayed out all night, she might have died. When we started searching, it was already late in the afternoon and looked like rain."