Search and rescue dog needs life-changing surgery

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – Carrie McGonigle named her yellow lab Amber in memory of her daughter who was kidnapped and killed in 2009. Amber has since helped so many others in the community, and now she needs the public’s help to get a life-changing surgery.

Amber is an accomplished search and rescue dog, and in 2011, Carrie McConigle was with her dog Amber on a search when she, then a puppy, discovered the remains of missing nursing student Michelle Lee.

“It’s a great feeling to serve another family and bring some kind of closure to that family,” said Carrie.

Now, Amber needs help. She is only four-years-old, but her knees are already failing her. Her symptoms first appeared last fall after Amber had worked 20 hours in two days.

“It was right after the search for Sally up in Julian. She had worked really hard. Then the next day I noticed she was limping and I thought well maybe she’s sore a little bit,” said Carrie.

Amber’s pain only became worse, and the Mohnacky Animal Hospital in Escondido veterinarians broke the sad news. Amber would soon be unable to walk without surgery to correct her knees.

“This is going to be a life-changing procedure for Amber,” said Carrie.

Dr. Zoran Djordjevich said Amber’s surgery would allow her to work again for years to come.

“Just the ability to help a searching dog and knowing that dog is going to help many lives to be saved down the road is simply an amazing situation,” said Dr. Djordjevich.

Carrie said her dog Amber is an integral part of Team Amber.

“She means everything to me. I named her after my daughter,” she said.

Carrie formed the volunteer search and rescue group after her daughter, Amber Dubois, was kidnapped and murdered in 2009, at the age of 14.

“I miss her. She would have been 21 this year, but I know she’s proud of us,” she said.

The surgeon is donating his time and the hospital is covering a portion of the costs, but Carrie still needs to raise about $8,000, for the two surgeries. One for each knee.

The public can help by calling the Mohnacky Animal Hospital directly, or by visiting the fundraising website set up for Amber.