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

Injured SAR Dog - Haiti

Dogs Without Borders

Today is Sunday, January 24th and the Search and Rescue mission in Haiti is apparently officially over and the recovery phase has begun. The Search and Rescue Teams that traveled from all over the globe and their SAR Dogs are beginning to return to their home countries.

It occurred to me yesterday that this thought of returning to their “home country” is a meaningless concept to the dogs. While we humans cannot seem to escape our nationalistic prides, prejudices, definitions and frictions you can bet that the dogs working in Port-au-Prince these past long days could care less about what national team they are on. It matters little to the dog whether he is from the U.S., Spain, France, Mexico or any of the other countries that came to work in Haiti.

All these dogs care about is going in, working hard, finding scent, finding that trapped victim, telling their handlers that “they have it” and getting their praise and reward quickly for a job well done. Dogs are without borders – thank goodness – and in this way serve as role models to us all.

Over 50 international search and rescue teams consisting of more than 1700 people and about 175 dogs responded to the Haiti earthquake. These heroes are responsible for saving the lives of more than 130 people while an estimated 200,000 souls were killed. Thinking in terms of hundreds of thousands, each of those 130 plus individuals is a miracle story. And as the people and dogs of the SAR Teams return home they can feel confident that their work mattered not only to the person rescued, their families and friends but to raising the consciousness of the world regarding the worth of human life – even that of a single life out of hundreds of thousands. And it mattered not a whit to the dogs whether they rescued Haitians, Americans or Europeans. Dogs are, as I said, without borders or artificial notions of identity. They are dogs, they are partners with their handlers and they are satisfied to be just that – whether they are sleeping in a tent in Haiti or standing under their nation’s flag receiving recognition – as I have no doubt many of them will be doing in the weeks ahead.


Search and rescue technicians from Germany’s USAR team treat their wounded search dog during operations in downtown Port-au-Prince January 20 , 2010. (Montreal Gazette, January 22, 2101 http://bit.ly/5M7zmE )

Photograph by: Hans Deryk , Reuters

These SAR Dog Teams worked tirelessly for days on end, climbing over a murderous terrain of concrete, steel and glass. They endured dehydration, lacerations and heat exhaustion. With the exception of the UK dogs who must, by law be quarantined for 6 months (a topic for a different blog – and be assured we all will start seeing them as once again people speak out about the absurdity of the outdated UK quarantine requirements) the dogs and handlers are headed home for some well deserved rest. When they get here, I hope you will join me in reaching out and thanking them from the bottom of our hearts –both dogs and handlers – for a mission completed and a job very, very well done.


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