2016 Montana Clinic

Instructor/Evaluator Biographies 

 John Beck-

John has been an Independent K9 Handler since 1999. He uses his Cadaver Detection Dogs on searches for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in Nebraska and the Midwest.  John serves as a Trainer and Judge for Midwest Canine Alternatives, an Evaluator for Search and Rescue Dogs of the U.S. (SARDUS) and has served as an Instructor/Evaluator for the North American Search Dog Network (NASDN) and other organizations. John has studied Crime Scene Investigation at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He served as President of the North American Search Dog Network from 2005-1012. He was the Nebraska Coalition for Victims of Crime's Volunteer of the Year in 2004 and received the Lincoln Police Department's Certificate of Merit in 2008. When John is not working with dogs, he earns his living as a filmmaker.


Mark E. Polakoff-

Mark E. Polakoff began training and handling his first SAR dog in 1983. In 1986 he was a founding member of Absaroka Search Dogs, Montana’s oldest K-9 SAR organization. He is currently training and working his fifth canine partner, a two-year-old German Shepherd named Bear, who has certified in air scent and cadaver search with Mark. He and his K-9 partners have responded on hundreds of SAR missions throughout Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, working for municipal law enforcement, county sheriff’s, several state criminal investigation agencies, NPS, BIA, tribal authorities, and the FBI. Mark is also an active member of Red Lodge (MT) Search and Rescue, and has volunteered with Red Lodge Fire Rescue’s EMS Division for the past 28 years, both on the ambulance and on backcountry incidents. 

Mark is a lead evaluator for Tri-State K9 in a number of SAR disciplines, as well as evaluating search dogs for SARDUS and NASDN. He has presented at SAR clinics and seminars in Montana, Wyoming and Washington states.

Professionally, Mark has been a Certified Emergency Nurse for 20 years; he currently works at Billings Clinic Emergency Department in Billings, MT. Mark backpacks, trail runs and skis in the 940,000 acre Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness located just outside of Red Lodge, and has participated in numerous climbing and trekking expeditions to the Himalaya range in Nepal.


Ann Wichmann-


B.A. in Zoology from Ohio Wesleyan University, 1971, with minor in Botany.  Taught riding and trained hunter/jumpers in Columbus, Ohio. Teaching Certificate in Secondary Biology, University of Colorado, 1974.  Taught climbing and backcountry skills for Colorado Mountain Club. Master's degree coursework completed at Colorado State University, 1983-88, thesis unwritten but implemented.  


Park Ranger/Naturalist for the City of Boulder Parks and Recreation Department for 28 years - responsible for environmental education, public speaking, natural resource management, wildfire and prescribed fire management (qualified at Incident Command level), law enforcement (certified POST Level I Peace Officer), search and rescue, EMS, horse patrol, conflict resolution, public relations, and all aspects of park management.  Have instructed at numerous national and state park management conferences.  Started Ranger Service Dog program in 1975 and have handled a succession of three Mountain Parks Ranger Service Dogs.  Promoted to Manager of the Mountain Parks in 1993 and served in this position until a merger in January 2001.  Managed a 25 person cadre with extensive seasonal employees.  Our team created and expended a budget exceeding $1 million, developed an overall management plan and associated public process, managed day to day operations in a park with high visitation and multiple conflicts.  Manager of Environmental Resources for the Parks and Recreation Department until retirement from the City of Boulder in July 2003.  Co-founder of Front Range Rescue Dogs, Inc. (1984), Co-founder of Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado (1985), Co-founder of Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States (1991).


Have sponsored and taught numerous training seminars in search and rescue topics, canines, and incident command.  Instructed at seminars throughout the country and taught at International Rescue Dog Symposia in Berlin, Stockholm, Prague, and Seoul.  Recipient (with associated canines) of 1993 NASAR State of Colorado SAR Award, Larimer County Humane Society Award of Merit for Response to the Ft. Collins Floods in 1997, 2002 President’s Award of the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association, 2002 Hero Award of the Denver Bark in the Park Festival.


Member of the instructional cadre with the FEMA Canine Search Specialist Training Course since inception (1991 - 2011).  Member of FEMA Canine Subcommittees 1991 – 2004 and co-developed national curriculum and canine standard.  FEMA certified evaluator (Type I and Type II), FEMA Lead Evaluator Type I and II, FEMA Chief Evaluator, FEMA Lead Instructor, FEMA Canine Mentor. Conduct evaluations, pre-evaluations and training sessions to help task forces achieve canine certification.  Canine Coordinator (inception to 2006), Type I and II Canine Search Specialist.  Retired from the FEMA system and Colorado Task Force I in June of 2011.


Qualified operational handler/dog team and have worked hundreds of actual search missions involving wilderness, trailing, disaster, water, avalanche, evidence, and cadaver searches.  Have certified six dogs in wilderness air scent through FRRD and SARDUS (Logan, Jenner, Merlyn, Torie, Rose, Thunder), one in trailing (Logan), four in water search (Logan, Jenner, Breeze, Trevor), one in avalanche (Logan), and seven dogs in live disaster (FEMA Type I with Jenner , Torie Lance, and Siri, FEMA Type II with Merlyn, AERIE Type II with Rose and Thunder), worked HRD for years as a secondary discipline and certified Siri in HRD (SARDUS) and Trevor in land (SARDUS) and disaster (AERIE Type II) HRD in 2011 and 2012.   Currently training four canines in trailing, area, HRD, water and disaster, in addition to teaching dog obedience and sponsoring/instructing training seminars at my home north of Otis, Jenner’s Run (www.jennersrun.com).


Currently an evaluator for Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States (SARDUS), Alliance for Emergency Responders, Instructors and Evaluators (AERIE), NASAR, and National Search Dog Alliance (NSDA).



Teresa MacPherson-

Teresa has responded to numerous missions on a local, State, Federal and International level.   These deployments include the OKC bombing of the Murrah building, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike, the Bam, Iran earthquake, the school collapse in Haiti, the Haiti earthquake, the Japan earthquake/tsunami, SuperStorm Sandy, the Oso mudslide, the Nepal earthquakes, as well as responses to call-outs by the FBI, CIA, NCIS and local law enforcement agencies.


Teresa has certified canines in wilderness, water, Human Remains and disaster search.  She recently certified her fifth FEMA US&R canine.


In addition to responding to search missions, Teresa instructs and evaluates on a local, State, Federal and International level. She has instructed and evaluated across the United States and has traveled to Turkey, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Australia to assist in the education and evaluation of their search resources.


Teresa chaired the FEMA Canine Sub-Group for 9 years, which oversees the federal Urban Search & Rescue canine program.  She is also a member of the NIMs SAR Working Group as well as several other canine organizations, giving her a broad knowledge base of canine search.


She resides in Catlett, VA with her husband, Jack and her four Labradors - Banks, Keys, Bayou and Port.    


Ann-Marie Boness-

Ann-Marie has been a volunteer searcher for Vail Mountain Rescue Group since 1975. She has served as Deputy Operations Director, Rescue Level Member and Search Dog Officer. Ann-Marie has training and years of search experience (MRA) in the areas of Search, High Angle, Low Angle, Avalanche, Winter Evacuation, and Mission Coordinator, as well as training as a Wilderness First Responder, CPR and Canine Wilderness First Responder.  


Ann-Marie started training and handling SAR dogs in 1980 with Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado. She was a Lead Evaluator for Air Scent Live Find, Lead Evaluator for Avalanche, and Evaluator Wilderness Trailing.  She had two certified canines, Teal and Mallard both certified in Air Scent and Avalanche. Ann-Marie is currently an Operational Dog Handler for SARDUS with her dog Drake who is certified in Area Search and Avalanche.  She is also an evaluator for both Area Search and Avalanche with SARDUS.


Ann-Marie is always working to keep her search skills sharp and has recently attended a Wilderness Trailing Class with Mark Holmes, Wilderness Air Scent with Clinic with Jonni Joyce, and Wilderness HRD clinic level one and level two with Bill Dotson.


Chris Dover-


Chris started training search dogs in 1987, she is presently working her 4th dog. She has certified dogs in Trailing, Area, HRD and Cadaver, Evidence, Avalanche and Water (both shore and open). Her current partner is certified in Area, Cadaver, Water (open and shore), and Evidence. Chris is a SARDUS and Tri-State evaluator and is a member of Absaroka Search Dogs of Montana.


Kim Gilmore- 

Kim Gilmore started training her first SAR dog in 1985 while a Freshman in College at the University of Montana. What started as a curiosity, quickly became a passion which has been an integral part of her life since then. Kim has trained/certified to operational 8 dogs, all but two being Belgian Tervuren. Dog #7 and her current operational dog is Tai who is certified in multiple national organizations to area search, trailing, article, cadaver, avalanche and water search. Her youngster, Karra, is certified to cadaver and training in trailing. Kim has obtained Evaluator/Lead Evaluator status in SARDUS and NASAR, has been on the standards committee for NASDN and AERIE and has qualified to apply for Instructor status through the IPWDA. She is also a certified SAR K9 Trainer for the American Society of Canine Trainers. When not working as an RN at Kalispell Regional Medical Center or SAR training, Kim enjoys biking, swimming and having fun with her dogs.