From Lisa Rogak:
We’ve all seen the heartbreaking photos of the overwhelming destruction that Sandy inflicted on the east coast, particularly New York City and New Jersey. From the time the first warnings hit, rescue teams from across the country have been working diligently to help in rescue and recovery efforts.
Those teams include a number of Search and Rescue dogs and handlers as part of SAR teams, FEMA Task Forces, and independent volunteer groups, including the Search Dog Foundation.
New York Times bestselling author Lisa Rogak researched Search and Rescue Dogs for her new book "Dogs of Courage: The Heroism and Heart of Working Dogs Around the World." While all urban police and fire departments have K-9 units trained in basic search functions as well as either drug or bomb detection, when the disaster is on a larger scale — such as in the aftermath of a hurricane or earthquake — local rescue organizations call the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has a network of task forces with highly trained dog-and-handler teams all across the nation who can drop everything and head out to help. In fact, these teams are so highly trained that some regard them as the canine equivalent of elite Navy SEAL squads. [Text continues after images.]
All photos and captions courtesy of Lisa Rogak.
Before being certified as a FEMA canine SAR team, both dog and handler must pass a number of tests that include basic obedience skills and agility. The dog must also prove he can navigate several obstacle courses that mimic what is often found at urban disaster sites: walking over rubble and building wreckage that is typically unstable, climbing up an eight-foot ladder placed at a forty-five-degree angle, navigating across a narrow board situated up to eight feet above the ground, crawling through a dark tunnel where the exit is not visible, and making his way across a rickety section of debris.
It’s not for the faint-of-heart, whether human or canine. For once a dog is screened and passes all initial tests, intense training begins, usually when the dog is between 18 and 24 months old. Training for the certification test takes at least a year. When a K-9 team passes, they are required to attend specialized training sessions at least once a month, and once a dog is certified, he’s on the team for three years.
Here are some photos from "Dogs of Courage" and elsewhere that show the true bravery and courage of these highly-skilled working dogs, who don’t hesitate to hurl themselves in the direct path of trouble.