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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

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i'm victoria stilwell. join me as i travelthe u.s. and discover stories of dogs and humans impacting each others' lives for thebetter. this is american dog. search. good boy, good boy. did you get the toy? huh? what'dyou find? ben, show me. good boy, ben. good boy. nice, buddy. am i pleased to see you,buddy. he says, "i'm happy to find you." with ben, when i tell him the word "search" a bombcould go off and it's not gonna distract him. i'm here with eric darling from orange countytask force 5 search and rescue. being on a pile of rubble like this, and myself justwalking over it, i am so clumsy. i mean, i'm frightened about my footing. that's the reasonwhy these dogs are so amazing, isn't it? because they can negotiate a rubble pile like thisso easily. with the advantage they have four-wheel

drive, and they're able to maneuver a lotfaster, a lot more quickly than we can. and more accuracy. okay. so that's our main advantageof having a dog on something like this. what is like for the handler? because you guys-- i don't think people realize that you guys are also putting your lives at risk doingthis as well. the drive that i have to come out here and work with ben is knowing thatmy dog is out there looking for a survivor. and it doesn't matter what the situation.we gotta find those people and bring them home. how do you build this relationship withyour dog? because it really does take a team, doesn't it? it's an absolutely team's nice that my dog's with me wherever i go. he's with me 365 days a year. ben is myfamily, you know? i trust him with everything

and i feel that he trusts me, and i wouldn'tgive anything for him. knowing what he's doing, it's something i can't do. i can't clear thoserubble piles fast. so we built a strong brotherhood bond. you know, he's a firefighter just likemyself. what makes you do this? the adrenaline rush is there, for sure. helping survivors,you know, helping to find the people. working with dog. just having the brotherhood andbeing out there and being a part of something that for my entire career has been being afirst responder and/or a firefighter. so the discipline aspect of it is still there. thisis a relatively small pile of rubble, though negotiating it, climbing over it, it's prettyterrifying. i lived in midtown manhattan during 9/11. i was part of helping with the therapydogs. and i saw ground zero and that huge

pile of rubble. i think just even my 5 minutesdown in that hole gave me a new awareness, i think, of how terrifying it is. but howscary it must be even though that you are -- you have done what you've done and youdo what you do, how you have to kind of overcome your fear too of maybe negotiating and dealingwith a place like this. i guess we block it out. and being a firefighter and going inand doing our job, it's just something we did. but now, coming out here and being oneof the recusers and having to talk to people as survivors coming out, yeah, i think itwould definitely change my perspective quite a bit. yeah. just hearing what you just many times a week do you train? oh, ben and i, we train everyday, 7 days a week. youdo? no matter what. and it might be only 20

minutes. we have our uniform trainings withour task force and with other regional task force groups at least once or twice a week.but i would say on average, ben puts in about 16 to 20 hours of legitimate training that'snot just agility or obedience. we're actually working. where did you find ben? ben was donatedto the search dog foundation. he came from a woman up in northern california. he wasa field trial hunting dog, and he was a champion field trial hunting dog, but he had too muchenergy. he liked to bark too much. and, so, because he was a little bit too loud for beinga hunting dog, the woman up in northern california donated him to search dog foundation. andhe went through training. and he's an ornery dog, and i can be an ornery person, so wewere a perfect match. and we've been together

ever since. where is she? that's a good boy.what sort of searchers have you been on with ben, real life searches? oh, ben and i havebeen on local searches in our own community. we've gone looking for lost hikers, alzheimer'spatients, walkaways from elderly homes. in about a year and a half, we went on a totalof 7 or 8 searches, locally, and they were all positive outcomes. ben did not actuallyfind the person missing, but as team, as a whole everything came out positive. so whichis exactly what the dogs are out there for: to ensure that no one got left behind. whatinspired you to set up the national disaster search dog foundation? in 1995, i was a fema-certifiedhandler with my dog, murphy. we were deployed to the oklahoma city bombing, april, 1995.and that deployment opened my eyes to the

great need for this particular resource, thecanine disaster search team. what was it like for you when you went to the oklahoma bombing?it was rewarding in some respects, that the effort my dog and i had put in could do somegood at an actual deployment. you see, in california, we had been preparing for earthquakes.we had no thought of bombings. so it was rewarding and it was also anger producing, in that wewere not as prepared as we could be. i came home from the oklahoma city bombing determinedthat something would change, that somehow i knew enough now to make a difference. hey, hey. dog, dog, dog. how difficult or easy is it to train a search and rescuedog? and where do they come from? where do you find them? the story begins with dogsthat are in shelters. we recruit among rescued

dogs. that is primarily. now, we will accepta dog that is donated, certainly. we would be interested in dogs that come with a fieldtrial background. but the bulk of them come from shelters. these are dogs that have beentossed into the trash heap because the people who have them simply don't realize what theyhave. they have an annoying pet, a dog that barks, or digs, or causes trouble. that'sbecause the folks don't recognize how to harness this wonderful animal. what we have is a lineup of barrels and it's designed to teach the dog to ignore his eyes and ignore his ears,and that's where the ball comes in and people talking and moving about -- and just followhis nose. everything else doesn't matter. just follow your nose and that'll always betrue and it'll always take you there the best

way. and you'll get that fast searching dogthat disregards all distractions and just works on his nose and gets that fast immediatebark, because he's very clear on what gets him his reward. well, the barking is importantbecause it's universal. everybody understands it. in the old days, it was all about readingyour dogs behavior -- sometimes you got a bark, sometimes you didn't. now we have, nationally,gone to the bark alert. it's the only indication that works when the dog is out of sight. thesedogs do range out and they work away from the handler, so we are working the disasterwith them. we're their spotter, per se, but the dog is hunting on his own. and so thatbark indication let's everybody know, the handler, but everybody else included, thatthat dog has somebody alive under the rubble.

and that's critical. it's complete hunt, andthat's why when we screen our dogs, we -- our screening is: first, we do a retrieve andthen we do a hunt. and, by the hunt, i would take a ball and throw it up on this hill andthe dog gets to watch it the first time, but we don't release until it lands. and thenwe do a 15 second delay and then we do 30 second delay, because these dogs can't justbe chasing an object. they need to have that in their brain that says, "i know it's upthere and now i need to find it with my nose." because we're not just teaching rubble. we'reteaching obedience. we're teaching agility training. we're doing direction and control.we need to be able to not only direct a dog out of an area that's unsafe while they'rehunting, but we need to direct them possibly

into an area that they've missed. so that'sthe handlers job, is to figure out search strategy and what the wind is doing and whatthe terrain is doing. and so, therefore, how the scent is moving and how to ensure thattheir dog is getting coverage. so once these dogs are finished here with the trainers thenthey will be paired up with firefighters, and they will go to 2 weeks of training withthe trainers. and from there, they go back home to their departments and they're putinto a training group of other handlers that we have around the country so that they'rementored where they live. hunter was donated to me by the national disaster search dogfoundation about 8 years ago. well, hunter's drive and energy on a regular basis is exactlywhat we require in a search dog. we don't

want a couch potato or some dog that justsits around and never really does anything. we need that person who's as fired up to dohis job as we in the fire service are. sit. down. dead. all the way dead. good boy. he,in 2010, was made the firefighter of the year for the department here, which is the firsttime that award's ever been given to a non-human. so that was pretty special. and then, 2011,he was the dog fancy canine of the year. and in that same year, the american kennel clubawarded him for their canine excellence award as the akc canine of the year in the searchand rescue category. haiti was actually a milestone for los angeles county fire department.our search and rescue team of 72 people has been on almost every disaster that's occurred,all the way back to hurricane iniki and oklahoma

in 1995. this is the first time this teamhas ever rescued a live human being, much less 11 human beings that my team found ina 16 day period. so, for this fire department and this country, it was a huge milestonein our 20 plus usar career doing the search and rescue to actually find live human, hunter, part of the search and rescue team. he's one of six dogs. he on day 2 wasable to locate 3 women that were trapped under a 4 story apartment building that had collapsed.and it was an exciting day for all of us, exciting day for the search dog foundation,much less my team to have a chance to rescue a live human being. part of this whole teamconcept is: yes, you made the search and you made the find, but these 24 rescue guys behindus spent 7 hours with concrete saws and torches

and backbreaking work with 5 gallon bucketsunder hazardous environments. and they pulled these 3 girls out 7 hours later. in haiti,the floors had all collapsed roughly 18 inches apart, barely enough for a standing dog toscurry back underneath there. and what we want them to do is penetrate these void spacesto get as close as they possibly can. whereas if you could imagine a dog bark, say, at thedoorway and the people are buried in the back bedroom, that's not gonna get us, as a rescueteam, as close as we wanna be, because we're gonna waste several hours possibly diggingthrough debris. or we could of gone to the top in the back of the building and came straightdown on top of you. so what hunter does is he penetrates through these void spaces andbetween these floors. and that's how we knew

he was right near someone, was he had scurriedback under these floors two or three times trying to get back to these woman. eventuallywe made contact with them, verbal contact with them, and were able to, 7 hours later,pull them out. additionally we found usa lady, we called her. because when we brought herout 7 hours later on a board, we carried her off on a pile of 15 rescue workers -- therewas a thousand haitian people in the streets chanting, "usa, usa." and, i mean, it givesme goosebumps when i think about it. but it's pretty cool to, in a foreign land, have peoplecheering for this country after bringing out one of their own. usa! usa! usa! usa! usa!usa! additionally we had the singing lady. that was jolene who was hanging onto a parkinggarage sign. when the buildings collapsed

it pinned her hands in an 18 inch floor andceiling area where our guys had to go in, cut some of the debris and metal around. andshe actually lost a couple of digits that where able to be reattached by a hospitalin miami, thank god. but when we rescued her, she came out singing, singing a prayer tous as the rescue team. and it was very special for us. later, when she was in that hospitalin miami, to be reunited via satellite to thank us from her hospital bed. then we hadthe twin sisters that were both in the same room that came out uninjured. watch your head,watch your head, watch your head. let's get her out first. easy, easy. and then we hadthe mattress lady. 17 hours we penetrated through 4 floors of debris. got down to thebottom floor, looked to our right -- and this

is one of the other women that hunter helpedlocate -- looked to our right and there she is laying on two mattresses on her belly withthe ceiling of the 4 floors above pressing her into the mattresses. uninjured, dehydrated,emotionally distraught from not being to be move a muscle for 7 days. and these guys,bit by bit, pulled that mattress apart, slide her onto a board and took her out. so shewas the mattress lady. so the dogs aren't always used on every victim because, i mean,some of us rescuers are able to either see or hear them. or the locals will a lot oftimes will them, "listen, thank you for being here. we've been digging for two days. wejust can't get through this concrete." and, you know, we'll take over from there withour heavy equipment and our technical rescue

equipment. and at that point the dogs justgo in the crate and relax and await till that tool is used again. i mean, if you think itabout, they are a tool. we have saws and jackhammers and cutting torches and dogs. and when there'sa time for certain tools we use them. when we're in a search mode, when we have no victims,the dogs are one of our most important tools. when they find a victim for us and we go towork -- so that's why this whole thing is a team and the dogs on our team are consideredone of us. if they get injured, these doctors take care of them just i like would if i brokean arm or had a stitch in my hand or things like that. so they're taken well care of.these dogs not only have to be able to work on concrete but also in wood environments,in vegetation, like we saw in the tsunamis

of japan and sri lanka. you know, we havenothing but green waste and trees and bushes -- people could still be trapped in there are times when we need his nose to help us locate -- our ears and our equipmentare not finding it. so when the search dog contacted me and they gave me this amazinganimal, at the time he was a year old -- he didn't know what was ahead of him. you know,look at him now. he's probably in the top 5 most famous dogs out there. and i'm bragginga little bit, yes. but the search dog foundation handed me his leash when he was a year oldand said, "go forth and save lives. we don't want any money. you just go out there anddo what you can." the search dog foundation is building this national training center.a 125 acres of everything that one could want

for training both handlers and dogs. it willbe, we believe, a disneyland for disaster search dog training and improvement. thereis construction going on right now as each area is built. but this place that we arestanding, this is a very special place. we call it the canine memorial. so this is memorylane, and this where we kind of promise never to forget, never to forget the dogs and allthat they have contributed. the work that these search and rescue dogs and their handlersdo is amazing. they literally save peoples' lives all around the world. i'm victoria stilwellwith american dog.

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