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Just a Humble Girl and Her Hounds

A Heart for Others

Candy did not start out on the path to work with or train hounds. Her primary occupation is a nurse, which you could say does make since for her to be in search and rescue too. However, nursing was not her first choice. When I asked Candy why she become a nurse her reply was, “Becoming a nurse was a complete God thing.”

Candy’s desire in high school was to go to the University of Miami and become a marine biologist, but in her junior year, her parents had started going through a divorce. Then when she graduated high school her parents went separate ways and as a result she could not qualify for financial aid to go.

Up until this point everyone in her family had went to Carson Newman College in Jefferson City. So that is where her and her mom headed. After taking the ACT, Candy was excepted into the biology department. At the end of her freshman year of college she was meeting with her advisor, who was the head of the biology department and he told her they had a really good nursing program and that he thought it would be a good fit.

However, Candy still had hopes of making it to Miami and fulfilling her dream to be a marine biologist and told him that she didn’t think that nursing was for her. Candy laughed while telling the story and said ‘this is no joke, the next semester when I went to enroll, I was already listed as a nursing major, I had nursing classes and was in the nursing curriculum and so that’s what I did.”

She never intended to become a nurse but said nursing came so naturally. Candy said that nursing school was like reading the Encyclopedia Britannica everyday, but the clinical aspect came so easy, like she had done this her whole life.

Twenty seven years later she still loves her profession. She said “sometimes it is super hard but that you also get to be there for others to help them during their hardest times”, and anyone who knows Candy can attest that she is the first one to help those in need.

After nursing school, Candy starting working at Fort Sanders where she still is today. She started out on the respiratory floor for about six months before transitioning to the observation unit then going into ICU. Working in the units for seven to eight years she became interested in surgery and began working in the O.R. for almost sixteen years. Her next move was to the Data collections and process improvement and is now the Stroke Vascular research nurse for Fort Sanders. She is in charge of all research studies and getting people enrolled in them while keeping up with vascular data. However she still has a lot of patient interaction and says it is the best of both world’s.

My next question is an obvious one- wondering how in the world she became interested in working on search and rescue. Much like nursing, training hounds was another “God thing”. Candy always loved the look of Bloodhounds and after receiving her first bloodhound, Cletus, as a gift 20 years ago she starting looking into the breed and their capabilities and thought search and rescue was interesting.

Candy wanted to give it a try and went to a Search and Rescue Seminar right outside of Nashville. It wasn’t expensive or far away, so her and Cletus went to check it out and turns out Cletus loved it. They started going to more seminars up and down the east coast since there was nothing here locally at the time. They would go to five or six seminars per year trying to learn as much as they could.

As there was still nothing here locally, Candy’s experience and advanced training had come to people’s attention and they starting asking for her help. Well that fell right in line with her journey to find her ministry, her calling.

Candy was always wanting to give back and this brought three of her favorite things together, helping people, dogs and being outdoors. Now she is starting to help people train their own search and rescue dogs.

Cletus stared out as trail search and rescue, then when he was two, going on three, Candy took him to a Cadaver Search Seminar to see how he would react.

She knew that since he loved to work that he would need something for when he got older. Trail (search and rescue), can be demanding and cadaver is more of a grid search. Well just like with trail, Cletus excelled at cadaver search and was certified right away. He loved working so much he worked up until the week before he died actually finding a body under water.

After Cletus’ death Candy was devastated and had decided she wasn’t going to continue or even have another dog. However, everyone around her told her how much they needed her and how her training others was so vital to the area.

Candy starting praying. She said, “I tell people it may sound horrible but I prayed more for my next Bloodhound then I did my husband”, but of course she points out she still prayed for her husband, with a smile.

Candy knew that she didn’t want to continue something if God wanted that chapter of her life to be over. So one day while Google searching hounds, she came across a breeder in Texas that had a male bloodhound, immediately Candy fell in love with the look of his face. He didn’t look anything like Cletus, but she was really drawn to this dog.

After talking it over with Steve ( Candy’s husband), she contacted the breeder and told her what she was looking for. Candy explained that she didn’t need a heavy frame dog but needed one that could go for miles especially in the heat. The breeder said that she was getting ready to breed the male Candy liked and should have the kind of pup she was needing.

So after praying again, her and Steve decided she should get one of the pups. Hopping on a plane, Candy flew to Texas. The breeder told Candy that she couldn’t have picked a better hound because she says he came right out of the womb trailing.

Candy had no problem picking a name either. She wanted it to be a biblical name since so much prayer went into finding this dog. One of her favorites in the Bible is Barnabas ( the encourager). That name certainly fits this now eight year old hound. Barnabas took to trailing only two days after he flew home and was cross trained to cadaver when he was just a year old.

Surprisingly, Candy didn’t stop there. The next addition came about two years ago with the beautiful and high spirited Porcelaine hound (a French Hunting Hound), named Pearl. It was Steve’s turn to pick the next dog and he definitely wanted another search and rescue dog. Pearl is outgoing with a bit of sass, but like Barnabas is eager to please and has made a perfect addition to their team.

Both dogs are trailing and cadaver certified through NNDDA and Archaeological Cadaver K-9. Candy and her hounds have been members of KPD SAR Team since it started in 2005. KPD SAR is a well structured and managed team, that trains extensively every month in search and rescue techniques and tactics.

Candy is most certainly one of the most compassionate people I have ever known. In addition to nursing and fulfilling a great need in our community for search and rescue hounds and handlers, Candy battles several autoimmune diseases.

Diagnosed with her first autoimmune disease at the age of seventeen, she has never let it stand in her way. You will not ever hear her complain or refuse to jump right in and help. She is one of those souls that after even just a few times of being around her, you will feel just like part of her family. She even referred to me as “Sis”, just like she does many others.

At the end of our meeting and interview, she gave what she thought was an off-handed comment of who she was, but inadvertently named the title of this story, “Just a humble girl and her hounds”. I am proud to know her as I am sure many can say the same, and all are humbled that we can call her friend, “Sis.”


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