Rome, 3.30 am, 6th of April 2009
Rescue Dogs and Abruzzo Earthquake
I wake up to the unmistakable feeling of the earth shaking under my bed.
Long seconds go by while I wake up completely and I reason (reassuringly) that earthquakes in Rome shouldn't be too damaging considering the quantities of Roman ruins still standing.
I check on my son, the dog keeps snoozing (aren’t pets supposed to feel earthquakes coming?), finally I go back to sleep with the uneasy feeling that something really bad must have happened not too far from my home.
In the morning my worst expectations are confirmed. It was a devastating earthquake and it struck not too far from Rome, in the Abruzzo region, about one hundred and twenty kilometers from my town. At the moment over 260 victims are reported in the area around L’Aquila and 28000 people are the homeless.
Rescue workers keep searching for survivors. The work of the rescue dogs is critical in the hours immediately following the disaster. One hundred unita’ cinofile arrived from all over Italy to help save lives.
It’s strange how despite all our technology we still rely on the a dog’s formidable nose and generous heart to rescue lives in dramatic situations.Rescue Dogs
By Kelly Marshall
We have all grown up with at least one hero in our life, but how many people can call their hero Duke or Spot? The answer- anyone who has had their life saved by a rescue dog.
Whether it is a house fire, tornado rubble, leftovers from an earthquake, or flowing water behind a hurricane front, these specially trained rescue dogs rush in with no concerns for their own welfare, pulling out victims, some dead and some still alive. They do this time and time again.
With a powerful snout and the ability to smell things a human may not, rescue dogs are hard-working and very loyal to doing what is expected of them. And what do they ask for in return? A hug, a treat or a little one-on-one play time. Not a huge reward, however for these special dogs, it is very satisfying.
There are different types of breeds who make better rescue dogs than others. For example, bloodhounds have a talent for prowess and are known for uncovering criminals. Newfound lands are good avalanche rescue dogs and Labrador Retrievers are good cadaver dogs. Any dog can become a rescue dog as long as they can concentrate on tracking scent, such as German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Golden Retrievers.
Before being allowed to track, each rescue dog is put through extensive evaluations. Scent detection training is then started and their skills are developed through regular sessions. In order to track, the dog will pick up on the odor of the person’s skin cells that flake off the body. These skin cells float in the air and hit the ground as a person moves along, and they float to the surface of the water if the victim has drowned.
The men and women behind these furry heroes are all volunteers who are fit, enjoy spending time outdoors, and take pride in training and communicating with their rescue dogs. These men and women may also belong to rescue teams such as SOSARD or SWOSAR, who are called out by the police department and may travel several hours to reach a search site. Along with their rescue dog they search in all different types of weather and terrain for lost children, missing fishermen and hunters, accident victims and injured hikers.
There is yet another type of rescue dog, who can sniff his trail from the air. Air-scenting rescue dogs work directly and specifically from aircraft, tracking the air and searching for victims. These dogs specialize in structural collapses and drowning victims. Because these air-scenting rescue dogs work on scent trailing above the ground and away from handlers, they become very useful in areas that have been contaminated by human searchers, after it is allowed to be aired out for awhile.
In many survivors’ eyes, these furry canines, which make wonderful family pets, make the best heroes of all!
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