In light of the recent tragedy in Las Vegas, we are (rightfully so) seeing a spike in media coverage dedicated to first responders. We are fortunate to have the most exemplary group of first responders in the world. These men and women put their lives on the line, on a daily basis, to save our citizens from perilous situations.
There is another elite division of the first responder teams that is often overlooked – Search and Rescue Dogs. These dogs are highly trained and are often in situations deemed too dangerous for their human counterparts. Search and Rescue dogs (along with their handlers) are deployed into earthquake zones, the aftermath of storms and other dangerous situations.
The Best Breed for Search and Rescue Dogs
One of great sights a dog lover can see, is a dog working and using its natural abilities. Most SAR (search and rescue) dogs are larger breeds with a strong play drive. The most common breeds for SAR dogs are German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Malinois, and Bloodhounds. These breeds have the right balance of intelligence, strength, agility and listening skills.
Search and Rescue dogs undergo rigorous training. The average search and rescue team (dog and handler) spends thousands of hours honing their skills. As a handler, you also need basic life support training and CPR/First Aid training. NIMS (National Incident Management System) certification is recommended. Handlers of search and rescue dogs also need to be in good physical condition. It is imperative that a handler remembers they are entering a precarious situation that others needed to be rescued from.
Almost all SAR dog handlers are volunteers. They spend thousands of dollars on training, equipment, traveling to volunteer, and of course a dog. Training programs are highly advanced and include instruction (both classroom and field based) on a variety of situations. Courses include, urban search and rescue strategies and tactics, wilderness search and rescue dog training, human remains detection and tracking/trailing dog training.
Search and rescue dogs and their handlers work on both the local and national level. FEMA certified teams need to be retested and certified every three years. AS you can see, being a part of this elite group requires tremendous sacrifice of both time and money.
Search and rescue dogs perform miracles every day. These heroes are able to save people from danger and death (in certain situations). Meet Genelle Guzman McMillian. She was the final living person rescued from Ground Zero, 27 hours after the attack occurred. Her rescuer wasn’t a fireman, it was a dog.
Not all heroes wear capes. Frida the SAR dog works with the Mexican Navy’s (SEMAR) Canine Unit. To date, this wonder dog has rescued 52 people, including at least a dozen from Mexico’s recent earthquakes. Frida has even been recognized by the office of the President of Mexico.
Do you have an interest in joining this fearless group of heroes? Visit www.sardogsus.org a great resource for information on classes, clinics and more.