Blue and his owner, Tim Ward, were both rescued after the slide. They’re recovering physically and mentally — and Blue is even helping others.

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After Brandy, his wife of 37 years, was killed in the landslide, one of the very few bright spots for Tim Ward was the reunion with his dog, Blue.

 A year later


A look back

Click the photo above to see The Seattle Times’ complete coverage of the Oso landslide, including investigative stories, profiles of the victims, interactive maps and a photo gallery.

Like Tim, Blue survived the disaster that claimed the lives of 43 people and uncounted animals and pets last year.

But both the man, now 59, and the dog were injured. Tim Ward, who was among the few rescued in the first hours after the slide, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center where he underwent surgery to repair his crushed pelvis.

It is believed that Blue spent three days trapped under a tree in the mud before he was found. He lost a leg in the ordeal.

Both Blue and his owner required time for recovery, including physical therapy for Ward that he still attends and swim therapy for Blue.

When Ward started taking Blue with him to a grief-support group that meets weekly in Arlington, he said he found that Blue had developed a new set of skills.

Somehow, the dog that had been born in distress, Ward said, and saved by Brandy Ward, now seemed to know instinctively how to comfort mourners.

“He’s a hugger,” said Ward, explaining that a dog’s ability to sense anxiety and sadness and provide emotional support through physical contact is not necessarily common.

Ward said he believes Blue is being called to a new career, and he is looking for an organization or individual in Snohomish County who can help him get Blue trained as a service animal.

Ward said many Oso survivors have benefitted from hugging Blue and he wants others who have suffered traumatic events or are going through stress disorders to have that opportunity as well.

“It’s amazing to see people respond to him,” said Ward. “It’s pretty special what he does.”