Irish father thanks volunteer and rescue dog for finding son's body in B.C.
'We feel fortunate that we have found him ... They tell us the landscape here is very unforgiving'
The family of a 26-year-old Irish man believed drowned last June are grateful to the volunteer and his dog, Koda, who found David Gavin's body north of Revelstoke after the heartbreak of several failed attempts.
Koda is one of a handful of so-called cadaver dogs in Canada.
The dog found the missing Gaelic footballer April 28, just four days after the young man's family returned to B.C. hoping for closure — for the third time.
Gavin was swimming on June 30, 2017 when he jumped off a bridge into a creek and disappeared.
The man's father, Michael (Mick) Gavin, said family members flew to Canada for the first time last July, but they were forced to return home twice without finding the body.
Gavin said his son's loved ones are overwhelmed with relief and want to thank all who aided their search.
"We are happy in a weird sense that we have got some closure."
"We just couldn't imagine what it would be like to leave Canada again without him. It would be very final this time," he said in a phone interview from Golden B.C.
RCMP and commercial divers searches were hindered by high water levels in the reservoir on the Columbia River.
This month, a volunteer team with specially trained dogs returned to the area of Kinbasket Lake, 166 kilometres north of Revelstoke.
It would be very final this time- Michael Gavin, father of David Gavin about his relief his son's body was found.
Brian Harmes is part of that group.
The Calgary-area volunteer joined the Canadian Canine Search Corps three years ago after finding his dog Koda at a SPCA shelter.
He tried to locate Gavin in August and April after the family asked for help.
On Saturday, Koda had success.
Harmes said thinking about that moment is overwhelming.
"I have a rush of emotion and goose bumps right now just talking about it. That's why we do this," said Harmes.
His group spends 350 hours training each year and survives by donations.
He believes there are no more than a dozen dogs certified to find human remains in Canada.
Finding a body in water is one of the most difficult recovery searches, said Harmes.
"It is a complicated puzzle doing this type of work," he said.
Discarded family dog
And it takes a certain kind of dog.
Koda, a rescue mutt that Harmes picked to train for search and rescue work, has an obvious "drive to work" when Harmes rescued the dog from a SPCA shelter in Red Deer.
I have a rush of emotion and goose bumps right now just talking about it- Brian Harmes, Koda's owner
Harmes said he's a 3½-year-old Australian Kelpie-Blue Heeler mix.
He'd been surrendered by a family who warned that he was "a handful."
But his temperament, energy and laser focus is why Harmes picked him.
He used a tennis ball to test Koda at the shelter.
"He was very, very focused on the toy and didn't care about anything else. That was my indication that he was going to work out just fine."
For David Gavin's father, Koda ended almost a year of heart-breaking wait.
The soft-spoken Irishman was reticent to say much about the shy son he lost who loved the outdoors and had only recently arrived in Canada to start a new life with his partner.
"We feel fortunate that we have found him against the odds. They tell us the landscape here is very unforgiving," said Gavin.
"We feel fortunate that we have this opportunity to take him home."