Volunteer's hectic, happy life

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By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

Kobe sits quietly on the concrete floor of the Tuolumne County Search and Rescue warehouse. With brown eyes, he gazes adoringly at whoever is petting him .

It's not often the 2-year-old golden retriever receives undivided attention, as Tuolumne County's first search-and-rescue dog-in-training shares a home with five kids, another dog, a cat, a goat, a snake, three turtles and a frog.

Training Kobe is just one of Jackie Potts' passions, so somehow he fits into her crazy schedule of raising a family, working full time at Tuolumne General Hospital and volunteering with the Tuolumne County's Search and Rescue Team.

During the day, the Columbia resident works as a discharge coordinator for the TGH acute psychiatric unit, helping develop plans for patients to ensure they stay healthy after leaving.

After work between soccer practices and cooking dinner Potts, 25, juggles in at least 16 hours of dog training each month. When his training is done, Kobe will be ready to track down missing hikers, hunters and campers in the Emigrant Wilderness and other wild parts of the Central Sierra Nevada. She hopes he'll be certified by December.

That means Search and Rescue officials will no longer have to look elsewhere for a dog to help them on their hunts.

"The Emigrant Wilderness is 126 square miles of the toughest terrain in California, and it's all in Tuolumne County so it's all our responsibility," Potts said.

Right now, she and Kobe focus on exercises that often take them out overnight, following scents through brush, streams and trees.

Most of the time Potts rewards him with water bottles Kobe's favorite toy.

"He'll take an empty water bottle over a tennis ball any day," she said. "He loves the crunching sound."

The Search and Rescue Team has been a prominent part of Potts' life for the past four years, since the Summerville High grad enrolled at Columbia College.

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