Memorial fund to honor rescue dog

COURTESY PHOTO |  Sue Condreras with her German shepherd Jesse, an experienced rescue dog that died Christmas night, just 11 days after receiving the Award for Canine Excellence as a Search and Rescue Dog.

A beloved German shepherd honored last month as a top search and rescue dog by the American Kenel Club died unexpectedly Christmas night, its trainer told the Riverhead News-Review.

Jesse, who spent her life locating missing people and visiting hospitals and nursing homes as a therapy dog, was 6.

Sue Condreras of Northville, who first met Jesse as a 4-month-old pup and who started training her at 1, said Jesse began vomiting and became very restless on Christmas Day. She rushed Jesse to East End Veterinary Emergency & Speciality Center in Riverhead. The vets discovered Jesse had Mesenteric torsion, a twisting of the intestines that is most commonly seen in German shepherds, according to It’s a fatal condition.

COURTESY PHOTO | Jesse with Ms. Condreras on a helicopter ready for a mission.

Ms. Condreras made the difficult decision to have Jesse euthanized.

In Jesse’s memory, a memorial fund has been started to raise $10,000 that will go toward the training of another dog to follow Jesse’s footsteps. Nearly $2,000 has been raised so far for the Long Island K9 Search and Rescue, Inc. Pat Sondgeroth of Riverhead, one of Jesse’s owners, said Jesse’s memory will live on through the memorial.

“We miss her terribly,” Ms. Sondgeroth said. “But there’s a lot going on to remember her.”

Eleven days before Jesse died, she received the 2013 Award for Canine Excellence from the American Kenel Club in Orlando, Fla. at the Eukanuba National Dog Show.

Jesse had endured plenty in the rigorous work of a search and rescue dog. She suffered two herniated discs in her spine during a training session that led to a six-month rehabilitation process. Her first rescue mission back from the injury took her to New Jersey, where she located a missing hunter.

Lisa Peterson, an American Kennel Club spokesperson, told the News-Review in August that Jesse typifies the tenacity of her breed.

“It’s really quite something,” Ms. Peterson said. “Jesse is multi-talented.”

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