Turn to ‘man’s best friend’ after disasters

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, the entire nation was searching for answers.  People wanted to understand what had taken place, and the families immediately affected were searching for closure after the tragedy. There were no better resources than the loyal teams of search dogs that went to Ground Zero every day searching for survivors and remains.  

The veterinarian who treated these dogs in the years following 2001 decided that there should be dogs trained and ready across the country to help in case of similar circumstances or after natural disasters.

This summer, I helped train working dogs at the Penn Vet School Working Dog Center, started by that same veterinarian. Among other tasks, I helped prepare search and rescue dogs for testing to be deployed anywhere in the country when needed.

There is some general knowledge throughout the population that there are dogs involved in search and rescues. Before this summer, I barely had an understanding of how much these incredible workers do.

In the last few weeks, the world has seen a series of incredibly strong hurricanes make landfall. There are hundreds of rescue teams being deployed from all over the globe, including the canine search and rescue teams.

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Some dogs deployed in the last few weeks, like a Labrador named Frida, have rescued over 50 people during their service. Pictures on Instagram of these dogs decked out in puppy boots and custom goggles have helped bring awareness to their incredible work.

Knowing that I helped train dogs to do this life-saving work made me feel like I was playing a role in the rescue of individuals across the country. While we don’t have students training search and rescue dogs on this campus, we do have two student organizations training service dogs to help individuals who are blind, children who have special needs, and veterans suffering from PTSD.

While some people may just see this as cute social media imagery, the motivation to put these canines’ skills to use shows a remarkable sense of purpose and determination to work together.  

Noticing opportunities to pinpoint the skills that service dogs possess should be more than just a photo op — these animals are saving lives and creating a better world for us all.

Hayley is a junior in ACES.

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