Haiti – Search Dogs and Hope, Part I (first published in January, 2010)

Haiti Earthquake 2010

Hello to you all. I’ve spent weeks planning this blog in my mind – an ongoing discussion I hope – about the incredible, miraculous and necessary bond between humans and dogs. I had thought I would start this blog off with a very cool and uplifting post about how much dogs have meant to us since the days that our ancestors lived in caves and how far we have come together.

But the past several days of horrific news streaming out of Haiti changed that for me. Tonight (Saturday, January 16th) much of the CNN stream that has been constantly on my TV is about a different kind of relationship of dogs, humans and . . . caves. Except the caves tonight, are the impossibly small hollows, wells, shafts and spaces that living human beings are trapped in even as I write. Tonight, humans are dying, struggling to live, suffering, screaming, praying and being rescued from impossible and insane compartments of crumbled concrete, twisted metal and jagged timber.


what is an archetypal partnership of dog and man, teams of Search and Rescue responders and SAR K-9’s are working in the dark, in the dirt, surrounded by the smell of death to locate and rescue anyone — anyone — who could still be underneath these mountains of debris alive and to pull them to safety before it is too late. These teams of dogs and humans have come thousands of miles – with the sole intent of saving lives.

I am a Search and Rescue Dog handler myself. I know all too well what it takes for handler and dog to be able to do this work. We train for hours, every week, for years on end preparing for moments like this. We train in the hot sun, torturous humidity,miserable rain, and freezing cold with our dogs for just this moment. Dog and human handler – we live together, play together, travel together, train together, sleep together, eat together and I swear to God – we dream together.

And we wait for this day – anticipating it and dreading it at the same time. But this is what we do. No dog would find these victims under these mountains of rubble without their handler’s direction and no human would find so many of these trapped souls without the keen and practiced noses of our dogs. Time is running out and the weariness and ache in the souls of both dogs and handlers is growing. Working against time, against fatigue, against the odds – they keep going in again and again in the rhythms to which they have been trained to repeat. Searching. . .

Not to get too sappy readers – but I have to tell you that nothing in this world can bring tears to my eyes faster than to see a good dog do his work with focus, intensity, intelligence and that overwhelming desire to do a good job, find his person and please the handler he adores. It’s not my lot to be in Haiti tonight – instead I’m in the warmth of my own home with my dogs lying at my feet. I can’t be there to help in Haiti – so I will post this blog and send my prayers out to the universe.

And tonight my prayers are threefold – for the rescue and survival of the victims still trapped under Haiti’s collapsed buildings, for their families sick and waiting for word of their loved ones, and for the first responders and those incredible, amazing SAR Dogs who will go in again and again. . . searching until they can search no more. God bless them and keep them tonight.


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