This is a special edition of Throwback Thursday, on a Tuesday. It’s the story of how my search dog became a therapy dog.

Two years ago this morning the earth moved near Oso, Washington. 43 people died in and around their homes as an entire hillside collapsed and swept through the Steelhead Haven development.

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I took no pictures at Oso, out of respect for those lost. This is Magnum and me training on a rubble pile about nine months before the slide. (Courtesy C. Terpstra, SnoCo)

I was honored to be asked to respond as a part of my day job at the Washington State Patrol. I spent three days getting a Joint Information Center (JIC) organized in Darrington. We’d expected that would be a small satellite operation, and was set up only because the slide separated the Darrington from the incident command post in Arlington. However, it was quickly apparent the media was at Darrington in large numbers, and needed managing. We tried to do that without stepping on the main source of information in Arlington. There were a couple of hiccups, but for the most part we kept things coordinated.

The work was emotional and exhausting. It would be overly dramatic to say I had PTSD, but at the end of my time there I certainly went home in an exceptionally sad mood.

Sometime later I was invited back with Magnum. I’d not been able to respond previously as a dog handler because of my day job. I went back still carrying some of the sadness from my time as a Public Information Officer. Magnum and I worked a very small and specific assignment in an area that had previously been underwater. We did not find anything but simply making a small contribution was amazingly helpful to my psyche.

In the end, working my dog turned out to be the best therapy for what I’d been feeling. Magnum’s not technically a “therapy dog,” but his performance at Oso had exactly that effect, and was exactly what I needed. Thanks, little buddy.

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