The National Park Service lost a dear friend when retired NPS narcotics canine “Emma” passed away late on Saturday, October 27th, just a month after her 14th birthday.
For over 12 years, the team of Emma and ranger/handler Julie (Kovacs) Byerly worked narcotics operations along the Mexican border at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and later at Grand Teton National Park.
Prior to training as a drug dog at Organ Pipe, Emma was a search and rescue dog at Yosemite National Park. The team of Emma and Byerly was as comfortable being flown into a backcountry tracking operation as working highway interdiction or identifying concealed loads at ports of entry. They set the standards for a drug canine team at a time when no agency standards existed and the bond they shared, both personally and professionally, was remarkable.
Utilized as an effective interdiction asset by numerous agencies and having been directly responsible for the seizure of thousands of pounds of narcotics, Emma was arguably the most successful narcotics canine ever fielded by the NPS. In retirement, Emma continued her job as family clown, companion, and protector.
In passing, Emma leaves a legacy that represents the best of the agency – unwavering dedication, the willingness to take on any task regardless of the hardship, unique skill, and a sense of humor.