The Doña Ana County Fire Marshal's Office lost a friend and colleague this morning when Shela, a trained arson-detection dog, died while awaiting emergency surgery to remove a suspected intestinal blockage.

In April of 2004, Doña Ana County Fire Prevention Specialist Daniel Kolson traveled to Maine for a month to train with Shela, who was donated to Doña Ana County by State Farm Insurance Company. Kolson and the dog returned to Doña Ana County that May.

Kolson said Shela had surgery in early 2005 to remove a deflated balloon she had swallowed. When he took her to the veterinary clinic yesterday, he suspected she might have once again swallowed something indigestible.

He treated her over night with prescribed diuretics, but by morning her condition had not improved.

Shela went into apparent cardiac arrest and died at 8:26 a.m. while awaiting surgery at Calista Animal Hospital.

“They did everything they could to save her,” Kolson said. “It was just too late.”

Shela lived at Kolson’s home. He said he and his family will greatly miss her, as will the staff members of the Doña Ana County Office of Emergency Management and Fire Marshal's Office, which share offices at the Doña Ana County Public Health Building on Solano Avenue in Las Cruces.

During her career with Doña Ana County, Shela helped solve a number of cases by either ruling out or confirming the presence of fire accelerants at the scene. On several occasions, Kolson said, Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department deputies were able to acquire arrest warrants for arson suspects because of Shela’s involvement in various cases.

Kolson said Shela was a constant asset to the investigation of fire in Doña Ana County. He said that in the days before she joined the team, investigators had to wait for labs results and hope that the lab had good samples to test.

"With Shela, we were able to determine what we needed to confirm and then move forward, and we didn’t have to wait months for results," he said.

Doña Ana County Fire Marshal Paul Chavez said he would contact State Farm to see whether a replacement canine investigator can be obtained.

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Reporters seeking more information or interviews may call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 525-5801.