Search-and-rescue dogs serve on the frontlines locating people missing after natural disasters, lost children, injured hikers and others, being ready at a moment’s notice to bravely endure the elements and save lives. Supreme Master Ching Hai, world renowned humanitarian, artist and spiritual teacher, speaks of her admiration and concern for these devoted canines.

And I saw many dogs, you know, they used for rescue mission. Oh, they just walk in like nothing, but I feel so bad about them.

The dogs walk in the sharp, broken glasses or anything like that, even chemical leaking or anything, or germs or danger.

And these are precious dogs. They have been trained for years. And they even lay down their life for anyone at command. You have to protect that dog.

To show Her loving support for search dogs and their human partners, Supreme Master Ching Hai has generously contributed over US$80,000 to search-and-rescue teams in 18 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, South Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Panama, the Philippines, Slovenia, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA.

Today’s program features two of these courageous groups: the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (Search Dog Foundation) in Ojai, California, USA and the Bay Area Recovery Canines (BARC) in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.

Founded in 1996, the Search Dog Foundation (SDF) is a non-profit organization which professionally trains search and rescue canines, and then places them at fire departments across the United States at no cost. One of the most unique aspects of this organization is where the dogs come from. Executive director Debra Tosch now gives us insight.

The mission of the Search Dog Foundation is to strengthen the emergency response in America. And we do that by rescuing dogs from shelters and breed rescue groups, getting them trained by a professional trainer and then pairing them up with firefighter partners. And then we actually train the firefighters to be able to do disaster search.

The solid training provided by the Search Dog Foundation make the firefighter and canine teams ready for deployment anywhere in the US and even abroad.

We have had teams respond to 9/11, the World Trade Center, we’ve had teams respond to Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and more recent hurricanes. And I would say the biggest challenge was when we had teams respond to Haiti, to the earthquake over there.

While in Haiti, the valiant search and rescue dogs and their human partners located and saved the lives of nine people who were trapped beneath massive mounds of debris.

The first find was locating three girls buried in a four story building. They were literally four stories down. And the dog indicated that there was somebody in there. And they do that by barking. They get the scent of people that they can’t see, and then they bark until the partner gets there. And so, sure enough as soon as the dog alerted (everyone), they started, working around the building and calling out and they heard somebody answer. And it took them six hours, but they pulled the three girls out.

In Haiti there was another woman. And she happened to be taking a nap when the earthquake happened. And she was in the bed face down. And when it collapsed, the ceiling was gently (lying) on top of her. And so she was pinned for three days, when they got to that area to search. And they were able to locate her. And they had to crawl in spaces that were only 18 inches. She had no injures other than being dehydrated, but she couldn’t get out. And had they not been able to locate her, she would have perished there.

When the Search Dog Foundation looks for a new dog candidate to prepare for search and rescue work, there are several key qualities he or she must possess. The canine must be emotionally stable, sociable, unaffected by other dogs and noises, but also playful.

We’re looking for dogs that have very high energy. Dogs that are obsessed with toys, any type of toys. And then they have to be in good physical shape too. But they’re running up and down these rubble piles, so we have to make sure that they’re very healthy. We x-ray their hips and their elbows to make sure, because we don’t want to cause pain in the dog later on. So we have to make sure that they’re able to do this.

Supreme Master Ching Hai contributed US $1,000 to the Search Dog Foundation to help them buy additional safety equipment for the noble and gallant canine rescuers. Our local Association members presented the check to Debra Tosch on Supreme Master Ching Hai’s behalf.

Oh, well thank you so much because, I’ve been out there and I can tell you first-hand it truly does make a difference. So thank you so much for helping us meet our mission.

The Foundation was also given a copy of Supreme Master Ching Hai’s #1 international bestseller “The Dogs In My Life.” The group later sent a warm letter to Supreme Master Ching Hai. The following is a brief excerpt:

We are humbled by your confidence in our work of rescuing dogs, and saving lives … We would like to extend a wholehearted WELCOME to you as a new member of the SDF family. Thank you for being Part of the Search! Debra Tosch, Executive Director Abby, Executive Search Dog

The Bay Area Recovery Canines (BARC) is a volunteer non-profit organization which provides free of charge canine search and rescue teams to assist law enforcement officials in finding missing and lost persons. We met BARC’s president, Heather Roche, a 20-year veteran of search and rescue work, and her partner, Red in Williamsburg, Virginia.

We specialize in some (of) the harder cases. We get called in by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. So we actually travel throughout the US on missing person cases. This is Red. She’s actually 10 and half. And if you can hear her, she’s ready to go. She thought we were going to come out here and start training already. So she was all excited. She’s cross-trained. She’ll find live people as well as deceased because we do a lot of evidence searches. And, missing people, even cold cases, 20 years out.

But she’s also a (Federal Emergency Management Agency) FEMA disaster dog. So she’ll search the rubble. She was my youngest (dog) at 9/11 (World Trade Center) and worked the (9/11) Pentagon. And then she was my primary (dog) at (Hurricane) Katrina, at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. And she’s done things like tornados, and other small collapses as well.

So dedicated is Red to her work, that she will sacrifice her own safety to protect or save the lives of others. She recently sustained a serious injury in a rescue mission.

A little over a month ago, she was working a three-story house that had caught on fire and unfortunately the homeowner was sleeping and was still inside the rubble. And she was trying to get her way to where he was located. And there wasn’t much left of the building. And where she was, started to collapse. And so she had to ride out the slide.

In that, she cut herself on either a nail or sharp metal, unfortunately, all the way to her bone and cut an artery. But we were lucky. We were there with the fire department and paramedics. And the paramedics took care of her, wrapped her up and actually the fire marshals rushed her off to a vet right away. And she’s healed. She’s totally fine. They did a great job sewing her up. And even after she got hurt, she still kept on searching because she just loves to do it.

We also met another delightful team from BARC: Cathy Dodgen and her canine partner, Rusty.

This is Rusty. Rusty is a Border Collie I got as a rescue out of an abuse and neglect case from North Carolina (USA). So I got him at about six months old, he’s seven now. For six years he’s worked finding live people, and now I’m training him to look for human remains as well.

Throughout the years, Ms. Dodgen has trained several dogs.

All of my search dogs actually came out of rescue. So I take the dogs; I rehabilitate them physically, mentally, emotionally; and then, a lot of dogs I pass on to good homes. And then, some dogs they're really energetic, and so they turn out to be a really good candidate to do search with.

On Supreme Master Ching Hai’s behalf, our local Association members presented BARC with her donation of US$1,000 for the purchase of safety equipment for the group’s canine members.

Thank you so much for this. It helps us be able to continue and not only help the missing persons (alright, Red’s ready to go), but it helps the family.

Ms. Roche was also given a copy of “The Dogs in My Life.”

Thank you, I can’t wait to read it. And (I) imagine she (is) like us. Our dogs are our partners, and they're our lives.

The Bay Area Recovery Canines later sent a thoughtful letter to Supreme Master Ching Hai. The following is a brief excerpt:

Your generous gift will allow us to insure that each BARC dog will be outfitted with an ice bed for hot weather searches, and a warming bed for the cold ones. In addition, each dog will be fitted with a cooling vest that will keep them more comfortable while working in heat and humidity, and insure that they will not be in danger of heatstroke. Once again, we send our heartfelt thanks for your generosity. With Best Regards, Cathy Dodgen, Secretary Bay Area Recovery Canines

Many thanks to all the canine and human members of the Search Dog Foundation and Bay Area Recovery Canines for your devotion to saving and protecting the lives of others. You are truly an inspiration and a light to us all.

For more information on the organizations featured today, please visit the following websites: Search Dog Foundation Bay Area Recovery Canines

Kind-hearted viewers, thank you for joining us today on Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants. Up next is Enlightening Entertainment, after Noteworthy News, here on Supreme Master Television. May all be blessed with long lives filled with peace, joy, and dignity.