While many amazing dogs have lent their noses to the search and rescue efforts of a deadly mudslide that struck Oso, Washington, other big hearted canines have lent their ears and wagging tails behind the scenes.
Crisis-response K-9s have been working to help those dealing with the disaster relax and connect. Spending hours inside the Oso Fire Department, the dogs who are trained specifically for this type of fieldwork, offer comfort to everyone involved in this emotionally charged situation.
Pickles, a 3-year-old black Lab is one of the dogs helping victims and rescue teams process what they have just been through. “Basically we pick dogs that are not shaken by emotionally charged people. The dog is able to connect with people where another human can’t,” explains owner and handler Raquel Lackey of Hope Animal Assisted Correspondence.
Levi, a 15-month-old Great Dane, put his 9 months of training to work walking through the Oso Fire Department. The gentle giant traded pets for doggie kisses with more than 80 citizen volunteers who had been waiting hours to have a chance to assist in the slide zone. Having Levi there helps keep the mood lighter and makes the time pass faster.
“Dogs like Levi often get people talking, at which point both the dog and its handler can provide further comfort,” says his handler, Pam Selz of Green Cross.
Also lending a paw (or four) is Sumi, a 6-year-old Akita. Sumi and her handler Sherrie Wright from HOPE, spent many weeks training before taking and passing an intense three-day boot camp that resulted in her certification as a crisis response animal.
Like Pickles, Sumi is part of Hope Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, a non-profit organization from Oregon, that sends out trained and certified teams (handlers and dogs) where needed. So far, there are three dogs from HOPE AACR in Oso with more dogs expected to arrive from California and Montana.
To help with the mudslide rescue efforts, visit the Snohomish County Red Cross.
Learn more about HOPE and what it means to be a crisis-response dog: