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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 17 /PRNewswire/ — A firefighter and his Search Dog located three girls trapped alive since Tuesday in the rubble of Haiti’s devastating earthquake. Bill Monahan and his Border Collie, Hunter, were searching a neighborhood near the Presidential Palace, concentrating on a large bowl-shaped area of rubble which was all that remained of a 4-story building.
After criss-crossing the area, Hunter pin-pointed the survivors’ scent under 4 feet of broken concrete and did a sustained “bark alert” to let Bill know where the victims were. Bill spoke with the survivors, then passed them bottles of water tied to the end of a stick. As they reached for the water one of the girls said, “Thank you.” Highly trained rescue crews from California Task Force 2 pulled the girls from the wreckage and provided first aid.
Bill and Hunter were trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation — the only non-profit in the nation that recruits rescued dogs, partners them with firefighters, and trains them to find survivors buried in the aftermath of disasters. The teams and their ongoing training are provided at no cost to Fire Departments throughout the country.
In his report this morning from Haiti, SDF Handler Bill Monahan stated, “It would have been a reward to find one person alive. Finding multiple survivors is a huge victory for everyone on the Task Force. It’s a giant team effort. From the canines, to the logistics team, to communications, everyone is working at full capacity, using everything we’ve been trained to do to find survivors. It’s an honor to be here.”
At Search Dog Foundation headquarters in Ojai, CA, SDF Founder Wilma Melville received the news with quiet gratitude. “This moment is what SDF Search Teams train for — week in and week out — throughout their careers together. When one SDF team succeeds, ALL of our teams succeed. Our thoughts are with our teams in Haiti, who continue to comb the rubble into the night. Their perseverance, skill, and strength in the face of extreme challenges make us all proud, and give us hope.”
Added SDF Executive Director Debra Tosch: “All our handlers are experts in reading their canines, pacing them throughout their shift to ensure the dogs are kept safe, healthy, happy and motivated. The canines are literally the Task Force’s most precious tool in the hunt for survivors: their well-being is mission-critical.”
Bill and Hunter continue to search, as do all seven SDF Search Teams on the ground in Haiti with California Task Force 2 and Florida Task Force 1.