As Hurricane Irene raged up the East Coast, the storm spewed out some of the most extreme weather to hit New Jersey in 100 years. Tens of thousands were evacuated from their homes and as of Monday, August 29, at least five people were swept up by powerful flooding which led to their tragic deaths.
Ohio Task Force One, one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) teams, was called to New Jersey to search for survivors amongst the deluge and rubble. Four special members of the search and rescue team made their debut on this mission. Their names are Juno, Pepper, Rushton and Cruise and they are dogs. They have been preparing to be part of FEMA’s K-9 elite since they were 18 months old and have been rigorously training to tap into their sense of smell. In the case of the Hurricane Irene, the canines are able to smell and locate victims that their human partners may never discover.
In just the last month, members of K-9 units across the country have been triumphant. In Easton, Massachusetts, a police dog found a missing woman within 30 minutes of arriving on the forested scene. The woman’s family was worried because she was suffering from medical issues before she disappeared. When Chalko found her, she was already unconscious – he probably saved her life.
In Louisville, Kentucky, the K-9 unit was called in when police officers were suspicious of Tyrie Thomas, someone they just pulled over. One of the police dogs, specialized in smelling drug stashes, discovered over $1000 worth of hydrocodone pills on the suspect. In Palm Springs, California, Robert Britz was threatening someone with a firearm. The situation was quickly dissolved because a police dog swept in and immediately detained the erratic offender.
In terms of law enforcement and emergency management, dogs may be trained in several different specialties. Some are taught to sniff out a particular drug, bombs or even foreign items not allowed to enter the country. Others train to search for humans, either dead or alive, as part of a criminal investigation or disaster relief. Some dogs transform into a police officer’s partner, always having his or her back, when his or her life may be in danger. Dogs make amazing companions and are cute and cuddly. But, with proper training their services may exceed all expectations.