Most people use their vacation time to recharge and relax. Jamie Carpenter uses that time to hone her skills in locating missing persons to bring relief or closure to worried families and friends.

Carpenter, a Learning & Development Specialist for Tucson Electric Power, logged roughly 500 volunteer hours in 2022, helping find lost hikers, elders and children. She worked with Southwest Rescue Dog, Inc. (SRDI), with the help of her trained and certified border collie, “Doc,” and chocolate Labrador, “JJ.”

The rescue organization is a nonprofit group that provides highly skilled K-9 handler and dog teams to assist the Pima County Sheriff’s Department with locating, rescuing and recovering lost persons.

Every day before work, she trains her dogs. On weekends, she joins other volunteers in practicing search and rescue scenarios with their dogs. “It’s like playing hide and seek. Someone goes into a remote area and remains hidden until the dog locates them,” Carpenter explained.

For her April vacation, she and her dogs attended the Arizona Search and Rescue Conference to sharpen their skills.

All that training allows her to keep her handler certifications and Doc’s wilderness search certification with the International Police Work Dog Association. Meanwhile, she’s also busy training 8-month-old JJ on trailing human scents so he also can be certified and assist the county’s search and recovery efforts.

As a dog handler, Carpenter must remain proficient in several skills, including wilderness survival, first aid, GPS and radio communications, biohazard handling and crime scene preservation.

The hours she logged with the rescue organization is the equivalent of a quarter-time job. “My volunteer hours add up fast when I’m training my dogs daily, attending weekend practice drills, and attending conferences,” she said, noting she trains before and after work and on weekends.

Because Carpenter logged more than 500 volunteer hours in one year, the nonprofit will receive a $500 donation from TEP through its Doers for Dollars program. TEP makes a financial contribution to nonprofit groups supported by employees who volunteer their time and talents.

“I find volunteering and assisting the sheriff’s department with missing persons so rewarding,” said Carpenter. “It’s important to be able to locate someone and bring them home safely or bring closure to families who lost a loved one so they can start the healing process.”

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