TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) – Southwest Rescue Dogs is a nonprofit organization that trains dogs and aids the Pima County Sheriffs Department in search and rescue efforts.

The organization is completely volunteer based. Candidate members must undergo training and K9 training for dogs can take between one to two years.

A lot of people involved in these groups have a spirit of service and want to help people, said Michael Wilke, the organization’s Vice President.

Wilkes dog, Dexter, is 12 years old and has been working for almost 10 of those years and is nearing retirement. Dogs can be trained in air scent, tracking and trailing and human remains detection.

However, having a dog is not required to be part of the organization. Robert McBratney has been part of the organization for five years after retiring from his career as doctor and relocating to Tucson.

I love dogs. And I like purposeful exercise. And so all that comes together well and I was a doctor in my previous life. So taking care of people in one way or another is always close to my heart, McBratney said.

While he doesnt have a dog himself, his job in a support role is just as important.

When we have a handler and their dog out, the handler is focused on the dog’s behavior to look for the person and I’m more or less there for situational awareness of what’s going on, McBratney said.

Both Wilke and McBratney described how rewarding the experience is for them.

Volunteer is just the nature of it. You know, we’re not paid to do it, but we do it out of the goodness of our heart and it’s fun, it’s fun for us. It’s fun for the dog, Wilke said.

Helping people and families to find their loved ones. And so when that happens, and it’s a great outcome, or even if someone has lost a loved one and they need closure, that’s really helpful for them, McBratney said. And so it gives them a sense of peace and that’s something that’s really enjoyable to be able to do that for them.

The organization typically holds three training sessions a month.