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Mudslide Search Dog Comes Home To SoCal

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IRVINE (CBSLA.com) — A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy and her yellow lab have returned to Southern California after an unprecedented recovery mission in Washington state.

Teams of cadaver dogs and their handlers were sent in by FEMA to find the bodies those who perished in the devastating March 22 mudslide that hit Oso.

Deputy Su Vodrazka, who works with Orange County firefighters, said training with her 2-year-old female Labrador retriever, named Riggs, paid off.

“She did exactly what I hoped she would do,” Vodrazka told KCAL9’s Stacey Butler.

“Her recovery, although not a whole body, allowed a family something to bury,” she said.

Vodrazka and Riggs have just returned to the Orange County Fire Authority in Irvine – where they serve on the urban search-and-rescue team – after two weeks in Washington.

Riggs, a trained human remains canine, was certified in the fall. She and her handler were one of 20 new teams across the nation deployed as part of the first mission of its kind.

“This is the first time FEMA deployed search-and-recovery dogs in the field,” Vodrazka said.

“They’re finding somebody who didn’t survive the collapse and then telling us where to dig.”

Vodrazka said that because of Riggs’ work, one more family will have closure.

“If you didn’t survive the collapse, we’re not going to forget about you,” she said.

Riggs will continue training until her next deployment.

The bodies of 39 victims have been recovered since the mudslide in Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle.

Some victims are still unaccounted for.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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