Search Dog Foundation partners rescued dogs with firefighters to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters. A team of six dog-firefighter partnerships were dispatched to Nepal in the wake of the recent devastating earthquake. These are some of the heroes keeping hope alive.
Riley the Yellow Labrador finished his basic Search Dog training in 2009 and was paired with Eric Gray of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. The team worked extremely hard and after just seven months of training together, they passed their FEMA Certification. On August 24, 2010 of that year, Eric and Riley responded to their first disaster. A semi-truck loaded with gravel had launched off the road and into a Santa Barbara home.
On March 11, 2011, Eric and Riley were one of the six SDF-trained Canine Disaster Search Teams deployed to Japan with California Task Force 2, sent into the Earthquake-Tsunami disaster zone to comb the wreckage in search of live victims.
After achieving initial FEMA Certification, Disaster Search teams must be re-evaluated once every three years in order to maintain their deployment-ready status. In February of 2013, Eric and Riley passed their evaluation test once again and maintain the highest level of urban disaster standards in the nation. They continue to train intensely with their task force so that should the call come, they are ready to save lives.
Rugby is a Chocolate Lab Chocolate Lab donated to the Search Dog Foundation in September of 2010 by SDF volunteer Penny Woodruff. After finding an ad in the local newspaper about this high-energy dog, she evaluated him for SDF and determined he was a perfect candidate.
In May 2011, Rugby was paired with Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain Dennis Clark. Dennis and Rugby then began the process of not just training but getting to know each other and bonding with one another. Rugby joined Dennis and his family at home in Fullerton, CA, which includes his two children and three pet dogs: a Chihuahua, a Great Dane and a Black Lab. “My original thought was, ‘Oh my goodness, he’s huge!’” Dennis said. “The first time I saw him on obstacles, I was amazed at how large and agile and quick he is, but also how detailed he is on searches. I can’t wait to see what else he can do!”
Dennis and Rugby regularly conduct demos for SDF and do public outreach to educate the public about Rugby’s skillset and the teams on hand to assist in case of emergency.
At 4-and-a-half years old, Tanker was older than the average canine candidate admitted to SDF training program. But when tested, he did a fabulous job. Since he already had some training and showed great potential, Tanker was admitted into the program, knowing that he would graduate and be out in the field more quickly than a fresh dog. Tanker was partnered with experienced SDF Handler Gary Durian of California Task Force 2.
Gary and Tanker trained intensively to learn to trust one another and work together as a solid team. The team achieved FEMA Certification, which allows them to deploy to disasters around the world. In 2014, Tanker and Gary were sent on a missing person search and later deployed to search for survivors of a mudslide. The team is ready to respond and come to people’s aid when the call comes!