In April 1995 retired schoolteacher and grandmother Wilma Melville and her black Labrador Retriever Murphy rushed to the site of the terrorist bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
At that time there were only 15 Advanced Certified disaster search dog/handler teams in the United States and the experience with that glaring need gave Wilma a determination to find a way to train highly skilled canine teams. So in 1996 she founded the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, which today has helped place more than 100 skilled search and rescue teams in service across the country.
Since then the foundation has rescued and trained hundreds of dogs from shelters and has deployed teams to Hurricane Katrina, last year’s earthquake in Haiti and a wide range of disasters, from tornados to mudslides to building explosions and train derailments.
Despite all the progress, there remains a critical need for many, many more trained teams.
So the foundation is raising money to build the nation’s first National Training Center in Santa Paula, Calif. Next Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, foundation supporters will gather to honor those who perished, to recognize the incredible work of the K9 teams and support staff, and to formally launch construction.
Find out more, and how you can help in this wonderful cause by visiting http://www.searchdogfoundation.org. In coming months I will be sharing more about this inspiring organization and project, vital to all potential disaster victims — which means all of us.
To get a first-hand look at these amazing dogs and their handlers, the NDSDF invited the DOG FANCY editorial team to visit one of their twice-weekly search exercises, essential to keeping the teams ready to save lives at the next major disaster. What the video can’t fully show is that, like the desperate situations they encounter in real life, the training itself is dangerous to both the dogs and their handlers.
The DOG FANCY editors especially want to thank the five search dog teams, all unpaid volunteers, who put themselves and their dogs at risk constantly to be ready in times of emergency.