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This is Who I Am - Christine Lyseng

This is Who I Am -

05-Jan-2015

This month's This is Who I Am features 9-1-1 Operator, Christine Lyseng.

Before she joined the Edmonton Police Service as a 911 Operator, Lyseng spent ten years as a volunteer dog handler with a search and rescue team.

“My first dog was a standard poodle,” Lyseng recalls.  “He was certified by the RCMP for wilderness, water and cadaver searches.” 

Lyseng still remembers her first major call:  A farmer had come across human remains that had being interfered with by wild animals. 

“The RCMP had already searched the area, but the forensic examiner was convinced there were still body parts out there.”

Lyseng was close friends with the RCMP officer who searched the area; she felt that by searching the area again she was calling into question her friend’s abilities.  “My team leader reminded me that the only thing I should be focusing on was finding those remains.  The victim was what was important.”

Shortly after beginning the search, Lyseng’s dog did a “bark alert”, a sign that the dog had found something.  “He was an amazing dog.  He found more evidence right out of the gate.”

Lyseng says that when most people think of search and rescue, they envision a Disney-type scenario, with the dog finding a lost child.  But more often than not, Lyseng and her dog were called in to find people who had died, for one reason or another, in remote areas.

“We spent a lot of time tromping across rough terrain in all kinds of weather.”

What kept her going through all of this, she says, was the bond she formed with her dog.  “We were a team.  We trained hard.  We worked hard.  We were dedicated to one another.”

Lyseng got a great deal of satisfaction helping the families of murder victims find closure.  Eventually the long hours and heartbreaking work, coupled with the tragic death of her friend in the RCMP, took its toll.

“I had to get away.  I still wanted to help people, but I couldn’t work with search and rescue anymore.” 

Lyseng and her husband began breeding Belgian Malinois, a type of dog favoured by law enforcement agencies around the world.  “One of our dogs is currently serving with the EPS Canine Unit,” she says.

She started working for the Edmonton Police Service as a 911 operator in 2000.  She discovered she enjoyed the fast pace and challenges of responding to emergency calls for help.

“There’s never a dull moment,” she says.  

Each call is a reminder of the lesson she learned working in search and rescue:  “It’s not about me.  It’s about helping the victim.”