The call of duty is something dogs answer without wavering, in true devotion, and with masterful dedication not only to their craft but with the goal of saving people—from hardship, depression, and sometimes even from harm’s way. Where were you when the world stopped turning?
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) is a beacon of hope for those in need. On September 11, 2001, thirteen Canine Disaster Search Teams from SDF were deployed to Ground Zero to search for survivors. In one of the most challenging search environments ever faced, the intense level of training these hero dogs received enabled them to search a nightmare of hellish steel and debris, 12 hours a day, 10 days straight.
Debra Tosch was one of the handlers deployed on September 11th. Her dog Abby is the last remaining SDF Search Dog who served at Ground Zero. After 9/11, Debra and Abby deployed to a number of disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and the La Conchita mudslide. As one of the nation’s most highly skilled Search Dogs, Abby helped train many SDF Canine Search Specialists, showing them “how it’s done” as they prepared to receive their own rescued dog…turned rescuer.
In tribute to those who perished in this catastrophic disaster and to pay tribute to the firefighters and canine partners who risked their lives, Debra and Abby along with 50 other 50 SDF Search Teams (including nine handlers deployed to 9/11) will come together. The event will occur at the site of the SDF’s National Training Center. Since 9/11, 27 SDF dogs have passed to the Rainbow Bridge, and they too, will be paid tribute on this landmark day.
Fidose of Reality was stunned to find out there are currently NO permanent training sites for America’s Search Teams in the entire nation! The Search Dog Foundation is building their very own facility where rescued dog are trained to become rescuers and where all the nation’s Search Teams will receive advanced training for disasters.
Wonder what it’s like in the day of a SDF dog’s life?
A day in the life of a search and rescue dog is busy and diverse. Dogs live with their handler, going almost everywhere with them, including learning to live at the fire station. The handlers continue training with the dogs in rubble piles several times per month as long as the dogs are in service. Once FEMA certified they must be ready to deploy anywhere in the world with very short notice. Recent deployments include several train derailments, Hurricane Katrina, Haiti and the gas explosion in San Bruno, California.
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) was founded by a retired schoolteacher, Wilma Melville, in 1996. After she and her FEMA-certified search dog were deployed to the Oklahoma City bombing, the shortage of canine disaster teams was evident to Melville. From there, the program was born. Disaster search dogs must be able to crawl through tunnels, walk up and down ladders, walk over and on debris and wobbly surfaces and stop to wait for handsignals from handlers.
Since its founding in 1996, SDF has rescued hundreds of dogs, many on the brink of euthanasia, and turned them into highly skilled rescuers. They have trained 131 Search Teams, 72 of which are currently active. Their teams have responded to 80 disasters, including the World Trade Center attack, Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti and Japan earthquakes, and the Joplin, MO tornado.
SDF will train 20 new teams in 2011 at a cost of $15,000 per team to be ready for the next local, national or international disaster. SDF receives no government funding and relies solely on support from individuals, private foundations, and companies to provide this critical resource at no cost to fire departments or taxpayers. SDF is the only organization in America that provides this resource in this way.
WHAT: Event honoring the Canine-Firefighter Search Teams deployed to Ground Zero
WHEN: Sunday, September 11, 2011 – 10:30am to 2:30pm (5:46am Bell Ceremony and reading of the names of the fallen firefighters)
WHERE: Search Dog Foundation National Training Center – 6800 Wheeler Canyon Road – Santa Paula, CA 93060 (90 minutes north of Los Angeles)
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 9/11 EVENT (Pacific Time) include:
5:46 am: At the exact moment American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, our firefighter-handlers, Board and special guests will gather at a “Bell Ceremony” to read the names of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the disaster.
7:00 am: At sunrise we will plant a “Tree of Life” to forever honor these fallen heroes. This will be followed by breakfast and a chance to speak with our firefighter-handlers while staff and volunteers ready the day.
9:30 am: Official check-in begins. Guests are invited to take a hayride or trolley tour of the property, meet our Search Teams, and explore all that’s new in Tier 1 of the Training Center.
10:30 am: The event gets underway with a demonstration of agility, obedience and search skills by more than 40 SDF Teams – representing the largest gathering of Canine Disaster Search Teams in SDF’s history.
12:00 pm: Lunch and satellite call-ins from New York.
1:00 pm: A gathering at the Canine Memorial where we will hear from handlers deployed to Ground Zero and honor 27 Search Dogs who have “passed over the Rainbow Bridge.”
2:00 pm: After sharing in the solemnity of this remembrance, an old-fashioned Ice Cream Social will cap off the day in celebration of the Search Team supporters who are helping to create a home for America’s Search Teams.
Question: Where were you when the world stopped turning?