ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - Last year, Jeff Tarver received a call that changed his life. His brother, Bill Galloway, had gone fishing at Kincaid Lake and did not return.

As Tarver, a 22-year veteran of the Alexandria Fire Department, recounted the story, his eyes filled with tears.

"When he left, he told our mom and his wife that if he wasn't back at a reasonable time after dark to send someone to look for him," Tarver said. "He had a feeling."

Tarver's brother had heart problems. It took three days for law enforcement to recover his body from the lake, where they found his boat still running.

But it wasn't a human who found Galloway. It was Cephora, a cadaver dog on loan from Red River Parish.

Since that day, Tarver has pushed to add a cadaver dog to his team of firefighters. That's how he found Nitro, a 2-year-old lab mix he rescued, trained and now hopes never to have to use.

"He became very passionate about this," Chief Bernard Wesley said of Tarver. "He didn't want anybody else to go through what he went through. He took it upon himself. He did it all. I never thought about us having a cadaver dog. It just hit home - the anguish his family had to go through."

Nitro has cost about $10,000 in training, but the fire department hasn't had to put out a dime, thanks to Tarver's niece, Jordan Phillips, who established the Bill Galloway Recovery Fund as her senior project at Bolton High School last year. The foundation raised funds for Nitro.

"If I get called out, I don't want extra money or overtime," Tarver said. "I've been given the OK from Chief Wesley that if I'm needed anywhere, I can go."

Nitro was trained at Southern Star Ranch Canine Training in Florence, Texas, by Bob Deeds, who trained some of the dogs who worked the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 plane crashes. Tarver continues to train Nitro nearly every day.

"People think cadaver dogs are just used on water, but Nitro is land, wilderness, disaster and water trained," Tarver said.

Though Nitro hasn't had to work yet, he has made a mark on the department.

"It's been nice having him," Second Assistant Chief Donnie Gauthier said.

The firefighters play with Nitro in their downtime. They walk him, feed him and pet him, and Tarver takes him home every night.

"From Day One, we just clicked," Tarver said of Nitro. "I don't know his life story, but I know he wasn't very far from being put down. I never really thought about dogs in the shelter until now. How many dogs that could do something like this get put down?"

Tarver said Nitro is a stress-reliever for him. He enjoys watching Nitro train, and he enjoys the companionship Nitro brings.

Most importantly, though, it's Nitro's job that brings Tarver the most peace.

"I've always said that if I can help one family get closure," he said, "I've done what I wanted to do."


Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk,