Talk about giving back. One former Sioux City stray Labrador is helping rescue victims of the Nepal quake.
Ripley, a yellow Labrador Retriever, was rescued as a stray 17 months ago. The one year-old Lab used to wander the streets of Sioux city in Iowa. That’s where he met Cindy Rarrat and her staff at Sioux City Animal Adoption & Rescue in early January 2014.
“He was a handful,” Rarrat says. “He had a lot of energy, really too much energy, too hyper for the average household.”
Rarrat thinks Ripley’s former family tried to raise Ripley and ran out of patience.
“He was on the thin side when we got him, you could tell he hadn’t been cared for,” Rarrat says. “He was out running the streets, thin and young and still full of energy.”
Ripley was taken in by Sioux City Animal Adoption & Rescue where he was neutered and given a full range of vaccinations.
“We found out pretty quickly he had a huge ball drive,” Rarrat says. “He wanted to search for a ball. Lots of therapy or search-and-rescue dogs have this huge drive to play ball and retrieve.”
Rarrat failed to find a new family locally for the Labrador Retriever so she contacted Tim and Kellee Matthews of the South Dakota Canine Center in Sturgis. She told the couple they had to see the Labrador.
The Matthewstrain dogs for placement with search-and-rescue teams across the country. They drove to Sioux City and met the dog in February 2013.
“I saw that Ripley was a hard, driven dog for his toy,” Tim Matthews says. “That’s the gas pedal the industry needs.”
Matthews saw that Ripley has the determination to find a victim in the most dire of circumstances.
“It only took me a few minutes to realize how over the top this dog was for his toy,” Matthew says. “It wouldn’t matter what environment he’d be in, the toy would take priority.”
Matthews took Ripley to Sturgis and worked with him for three weeks before sending a video of Ripley to search professionals. The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation contacted Matthews.
The driven Lab was taken to California last year where he began a five-month work program with handler, Jason Vasquez, a Los Angeles County firefighter, at the National Training Center.
Awesome Ripley earned his certification with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, on Oct. 19.
Last week, President Barack Obama ordered four FEMA search dogs and their handlers to mobilize with a team of medical professionals and engineers. The group flew to Nepal to search for and work with survivors of the earthquake that hit the country on April 25.
On Wednesday, one of the dogs helped find a 15-year-old trapped under the rubble – the child survived. Matthews isn’t sure if the dog who found the boy was Ripley but it doesn’t matter which dog did it, he says. What matters is that the child is alive today because of one driven pooch.
“I get choked up talking about it,” Matthews says. He adds that dogs like Ripley are often the first to be euthanized at certain shelters.
“They’re completely over-the-top dogs and hard to handle or keep as a pet or have in any home environment,” Matthews says. “The majority of people can’t.”
Thanks to his training, Ripley’s drive for his toy has been converted to a loyal drive to find a victim. The dog jumps through, over and around rubble to find a person he believes has his toy.
“I look at 2,000 dogs before I find one like Ripley,” Matthews says.
Rarrat considers Ripley as one of her blessings.
“This makes me feel amazing,” she says. “Ripley went from being a dog that had no purpose and no one in life to now providing a service to humans and experiencing more love than he can imagine.”
Source: Globe Gazette