In my role as an emergency services Public Information Officer I used to suggest, with tongue firmly in cheek, that fire departments take small cuddly pets with them TO fires. Upon arrival they were to provide oxygen, let the animal appear to wake up, and they’d soon be getting positive national press.
The fact is, saving animals is almost better than saving people.
SAR teams, usually mountain rescue types, occasionally create ad hoc “training days” to help a pet owner whose beloved companion has gone over a cliff.
Such was the case for a Wolfe County, KY, SAR team earlier this week. As reported by TV station WLEX in Lexington, the team rescued a Jack Russell Terrier who’d gone over an embankment the previous night.
The dog is fine and the SAR team is getting major kudos in the press. We’re glad the pup is OK. Some dogs have a concept of falling and gravity, and some don’t. It would be interesting to see the dog’s reaction the next time it gets near a cliff.
This is a special edition of Throwback Thursday, on a Tuesday. It’s the story of how my search dog became a therapy dog.
Two years ago this morning the earth moved near Oso, Washington. 43 people died in and around their homes as an entire hillside collapsed and swept through the Steelhead Haven development.
I was honored to be asked to respond as a part of my day job at the Washington State Patrol. I spent three days getting a Joint Information Center (JIC) organized in Darrington. We’d expected that would be a small satellite operation, and was set up only because the slide separated the Darrington from the incident command post in Arlington. However, it was quickly apparent the media was at Darrington in large numbers, and needed managing. We tried to do that without stepping on the main source of information in Arlington. There were a couple of hiccups, but for the most part we kept things coordinated.
The work was emotional and exhausting. It would be overly dramatic to say I had PTSD, but at the end of my time there I certainly went home in an exceptionally sad mood.
Sometime later I was invited back with Magnum. I’d not been able to respond previously as a dog handler because of my day job. I went back still carrying some of the sadness from my time as a Public Information Officer. Magnum and I worked a very small and specific assignment in an area that had previously been underwater. We did not find anything but simply making a small contribution was amazingly helpful to my psyche.
In the end, working my dog turned out to be the best therapy for what I’d been feeling. Magnum’s not technically a “therapy dog,” but his performance at Oso had exactly that effect, and was exactly what I needed. Thanks, little buddy.