Socks, Thunder and Bretagne are three of the seven first year search and rescue graduates at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. The dogs and their handlers were honoured in a lavish ceremony at Pennsylvania University on 24 September 2013
The Penn Vet Working Dog Center started in September 2012 in honor of all the dogs that assisted with the rescue efforts after 9/11/2001. Some of these dogs will embark on careers as search and rescue dogs and others will become canine assistants for people with medical conditions.
Cindy Otto, who was an emergency clinician at the veterinary school of Pennsylvania University and is now the Director of the Center, was at ground zero after the terrorist attacks and took care of the search and rescue dogs. “I spent 10 days at ground zero taking care of the working dogs there and recognized what an incredible gift those dogs are to our society and how important they are,” said Otto.
The 16 dogs currently being trained at the Center are named after dogs who served on 9/11. All the trainee dogs have been donated by breeders and they live with volunteers in ‘foster homes’ where they are cared for while they are learning life-saving skills like sniffing out explosives or drugs and finding missing people. These dogs cost $10.000 each and this money goes towards their training.
During the ceremony all the dog graduates showed off their skills and impressed the audience with their search skills on a manufactured ‘rubble pile’, and their agility expertise on an obstacle course.
Socks, a Yellow Labrador Retriever, was the only graduate to wear a mortarboard. Socks is a dog with a job and has a permanent placement with the Campus Police Force. She has already started advanced training in bomb detection, said the superintendent of the campus force, Maureen Rush. “Socks is way ahead of the game because of the great work that’s been done already through the Working Dog Center,” Rush said.
Another favorite is a Chocolate Labrador, Thunder, who has been noticed by the local police and fire departments. “Thunder is definitely an urban search-and-rescue dog,” Otto said. “He is bold, he is strong, he has no fear on the rubble, and he will search like a machine, which is exactly what you want in a disaster setting.”
Bretagne, a Golden Retriever dog, will be excellent as a diabetic alert dog.
The second class of working dogs are training hard in the meantime. Three have already been selected to work in an ovarian cancer detection study.
Article and image source: Daily News.