About Us


Chris Melville

Chris and Kai in the field

Chris and his now retired K9 pal Kai are certified in wilderness area search and volunteer for the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Search and Rescue team, and were formerly members of the Monterey County Sheriff's Search and Rescue team as well. Chris is currently working as Treasurer on the Board of Directors.

Chris is actively involved in Technical Rescue and Swiftwater rescue. Chris and Kai are both NASAR SARTECH II certified, and Chris is a Rope Rescue Technician II and a Swiftwater Rescue Technician/Advanced.

Chris's interests include emergency and wilderness medicine (he is a nationally registered Wilderness EMT), SCUBA, hiking, and teaching NASAR classes on SAR.

Ashley McClung


Ashley and her dog, Popeye, are two of Monterey Bay Search Dogs' newest members. She recently moved from Fort Bragg, CA to the Santa Cruz mountains. Her SAR career began when she joined Mendocino County Search and Rescue with her lab mix, Ella, in 2012. In 2014, she realized Ella was not going to make the cut as a search dog. While Ella is still her much loved family pet, Ashley started training Popeye for search and rescue in 2014. In Mendocino County, Ashley and Popeye certified as a Wilderness Area search team and an HRD search team. She and Popeye deployed on multiple searches in Mendocino County. Upon becoming a member of MBSD, Ashley and Popeye re-certified as a Wilderness Area search team, and is looking forward to certifying with MBSD as an HRD search team as well. 

Ashley is a Registered Professional Forester in California. She has spent countless hours and days navigating through the woods along for her profession (8+ years). Ashley found that her background knowledge in land navigation has aided her tremendously in her SAR career. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys training her dogs, helping friends train their dogs, hiking with her dogs, and writing. 

Susanne Martin and Erroin Martin

Susanne Martin, MD trained and certified her first Dutch Decoy Dog in Wilderness SAR and disaster SAR in Munich, Germany, in 2001. They participated as a mission-ready team for years in local searches. She is currently certified with her 5-yr old Kooikerhondje Amica in wilderness area SAR with MBSD.

Susanne is a Board Certified Internal Medicine physician and completed her fellowship in Adolescent Medicine at Stanford University. She is planning to undergo further training in Wilderness Medicine.

Both enjoy the outdoors and traveling with their Kooikers.

Pat O'Connell


Pat and his certified Wilderness Area search K-9 Max have been a part of Monterey Bay Search Dogs since 2001. They are volunteer members of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team. Pat and Max have been called out by CALOES through MBSD to respond throughout the state for mutual aid search efforts. Pat is currently serving as President on the Monterey Bay Search Dogs’ Board of Directors.

Pat is a retired firefighter and is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Branciforte Fire District. He enjoys camping, kayaking, hiking, photography, art, and graphic design. He is constantly busy catching up with all the projects around the house and grounds.

Serena Bliss

Serena has always actively participated in volunteering, especially with dogs! She has raised four guide dog puppies for the blind through 4-H starting at the age of 12. She worked as a dog sled guide in WY for a year, combined with working as a park ranger for the forest service and park service for six years around various spots in the U.S.

Serena is a board member with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office search and rescue team, and has volunteered with them for five years. She has been with MBSD now for a little over two years, and is training her adorable Catahoula/Queensland mix, Emmie, in Human Remains Detection (HRD).

Johnny Subia

Johnny Subia is a professional firefighter with the City of Seaside. He became a canine handler in 2006 when he was awarded an Urban Search and Rescue canine named Lola from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. They became a FEMA certified team in 2008. He retired Lola in 2014. 

Around that time, Johnny wasn't quite sure he was done with being a canine handler. He researched other canine disciplines and decided he wanted to try Wilderness Area Search and Rescue. He spoke with a few Urban Disaster handlers about different Wilderness Area training groups and found Monterey Bay Search Dogs to be a well respected organization. He attended several trainings and decided Wilderness SAR was a good fit for him. 

He received an email from the MBSD group about a litter of Golden Retriever puppies in the Santa Clara area that were bred to be working dogs, so Johnny and one of the trainers from Sundowners Kennels in Gilroy (Kate Davern) met with Pam Tyson to see if the puppies would be a good match. Kate was instantly convinced that this breeding had all the right traits to be good working dogs; confidence, great drive, focus, and a superb pedigree. Johnny named the puppy Blu (his full kennel name is Delta Gold Wild Blu Yonder). Johnny officially became a member of MBSD in 2015. He and Blu are currently working towards certification. 

Kate Davern

Kate is a second generation professional dog trainer and has competed in AKC performance and conformation events since the age of five. Kate has also trained Urban Disaster search dogs, as well as their handlers, towards FEMA certification. She currently trains hunting, obedience, and behavior modification full-time and manages Sundowners Kennels (family owned and operated) in Gilroy, CA. Kate is very excited to have started training her own personal dog, Ace, for Wilderness Search and Rescue. 

Gabriella Fontana

Gabby has always been an active volunteer for various organizations, including an equine rescue in El Dorado Hills. Upon moving to the Monterey Bay area for college, she found Monterey Bay Search Dogs, which combined her love for dogs and the outdoors with her interest in search and rescue work. Gabby joined MBSD in 2012, without a dog, and has been helping others train their dogs ever since. She is presently the Secretary on the Board of Directors and is planning to work with a dog of her own in the near future.

In her spare time, Gabby enjoys working with her horse, rock climbing, mountain biking, photography, and reading. 


Ila Palmquist

Ila has been volunteering with Monterey Bay Search Dogs since February of 2017 and has recently started training her Shepherd mix, Hobbes, in Wilderness Area Search. Her educational background is in Wildlife Biology, but she has made her love for dogs and the outdoors into a career, by way of her dog walking company, Woofpack, based in Santa Cruz. She is currently volunteering as a Behavior Modification trainer at the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter and has previously volunteered at Pinnacles National Park.

Ila fills her free time with various outdoor activities including rock climbing, mountain biking, and surfing, as well as trail running and backpacking with her dogs.


Dr. Pat Grant

Dr. Grant has been a team member of the California Task Force 3 Urban Search and Rescue since its inception in 1991. She has deployed as a FEMA Type 1 Canine Team with her partner Topper to the Oklahoma City Bombing in April 1995 and to the World Trade Center in September 2001. She was also the veterinarian on the Incident Support Team for the Columbia Shuttle Recovery Mission in February of 2003. In addition to her team activities with search and as a canine coordinator, Dr. Grant is a rostered DHS/FEMA CSSCP Evaluator, the certification process for search dogs. She also teaches as a subject matter expert in the Medical Specialist Course given to medics and doctors, teaching them to care for their canine charges.

Dr. Grant received her veterinary degree from Texas A&M University in 1984. She is also a charter member of the Monterey Bay Search Dogs since its inception in 1984, and she works part time at a local wildlife rehabilitation center.

Read Topper's Story.

Chantal Rose

Chantal has 13 years of Search & Rescue experience in both wilderness and urban settings. Chantal is the Training Director for Monterey Bay Search Dogs and has served as the Canine Coordinator for both California Task Force 3 (CATF3) and the Santa Cruz Sheriff's Office SAR Team.  In addition to being a certified K9 handler, she is an Instructor for Mar-Ken International, a P.O.S.T. Evaluator, and an OES Search Manager. Chantal also regularly contributes to the community as a Hug-A-Tree Presenter.

Chantal's training includes Rescue Systems 1, Wilderness First Responder/CPR, and NIMS 700-800.

Steve Hilts

Steve has been a member of Monterey Bay Search Dogs since 2002. He and his K9 partner Daisy (retired) are a FEMA certified disaster Search and Rescue team and member of California Task Force 3 (CATF3); they deployed with the Task Force to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Ernesto in 2006, and most recently, to Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Steve also volunteers for the Red Cross as a member of their Disaster Action Team and as an Emergency Response Vehicle Driver. He deployed with the Red Cross to Hurricane Dean and the San Diego fires, both in 2007.

Steve loves being outdoors, and enjoys Ocean Kayaking, rock & ice climbing, mountain biking, long distance running, hiking and swimming, and Yoga. He is a nationally Registered EMT-B and an Advanced SCUBA Diver.

Miranda Olson

Miranda and her canine partner Marcy (retired) are certified in Human Remains Detection and volunteer for the Monterey County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue Team.

Miranda got involved in SAR in 2005 when training and certifying her first dog, Izzy (retired), in Wilderness Area Search. Over the years her training has included technical rope rescue, swift water, helicopter safety, and first responder.

Miranda's interests include back country backpacking, running, and training her dogs.

Jeannie Alexander

Jeannie and Shadow

Jeannie is training her dog Shadow in Human Remains Detection. Jeannie is a Nurse and loves working in Emergency Medicine and Labor and Delivery. She has been with Big Sur Fire for over 15 years and is the Medical Captain for her Department. She also volunteers for the Monterey County Sheriffs Search and Rescue team. She is certified in cliff rescue, swift water rescue, firefighting, and hazmat. She is a practicing EMT, CPR instructor, and teaches an EMT class at Monterey Peninsula College.

Jeannie lives on a ranch in Big Sur with her family, where she enjoys hiking, gardening, bee keeping, and taking care of the many animals on the ranch. When away from the ranch she enjoys traveling, scuba diving with her kids, and long quiet walks on the beach with her k9 partner, Shadow.