A blind paralympic athlete and her loyal guide dog have been hailed as everyday heroes after finding and saving a lost elderly woman in the dense wilderness near Vancouver Island, Canada.
Jessica Tuomela, a gold medal-winning swimmer, was approached by a frantic neighbor in May to help locate the elderly woman who suffers from memory loss.
Equipped with a “scent kit” provided by the missing woman’s family, Tuomela and her Golden Retriever, Lucy, set out on the trail.
After running approximately two miles, Lucy led Tuomela to a sandy patch near Elk Lake, where they heard the lost woman’s voice speaking to the dog.
With the help of a bystander who had joined the search, Tuomela quickly confirmed that they had found the right person.
The woman, who suffers from dementia, told Tuomela that she could not recall where she had been for the past two and half hours and had no idea how to get home.
Tuomela, who lost her sight at a young age, expressed her relief and adrenaline after the successful rescue.
“It was incredible when I realized we were doing a rescue, not a recovery,” she remarked.
“After she had been reunited with her family, I was definitely probably shaking for about 45 minutes. It was pretty incredible.”
She reached out to her training mentor, former FBI agent Paul Coley, who was delighted with the outcome.
Tuomela now hopes to raise awareness about her and Lucy’s availability to assist others in need through their training with Coley’s Scent Evidence K9, which he co-founded with his wife to assist law enforcement authorities with missing people searches.
Highlighting the importance of scent kits, Tuomela advocates for proactive measures to ensure the safety of loved ones.
The missing woman is the athlete and Lucy’s second save and marks the 450th for Scent Evidence K9.
In addition to her rescue efforts, Tuomela has achieved success in the Paralympic Games, winning two gold medals in swimming in 2006.