SANTA PAULA (CBSLA.com) — In Nepal, it seems that miracles are happening on an hourly basis.
Nearly a week after a devastating quake that killed more than 6,000 and injured more than 14,000 in Nepal and three neighboring countries, people are still being pulled alive out of buildings reduced to rubble.
CBS2’s Rachel Kim went to the Search Dog Foundation in Santa Paula, where many rescue dogs are trained for the dangerous work.
Two-and-a half year-old Jake is on a mission to find people buried in mounds of rubble. He is one of a dozen dogs undergoing the training.
“They’re super athletic, super agile, extremely high-drive dogs that just will not stop.” said Sonja Heritage, a trainer.
The nonprofit foundation is where all six of the dogs who accompanied LA County Firefighters to Nepal were trained. Ripley is a graduate. Thursday, he and his handler helped in the rescue of a teenage boy trapped under debris in Kathmandu.
“I couldn’t be happier. I’m so proud of these guys. I’m so proud of these dogs,” said Heritage.
The ultimate goal is to teach the dogs to find inaccessible human scent.
The reward isn’t a yummy treat, Kim reported, it’s their toy.
They begin by having trainer Darrel hide in one of several barrels with the toy. Then, trainer Liz pulls a tennis ball on a string to draw Jake, the dog, to an empty barrel.
“When that dog goes and sticks his nose in all those other ones, nothing happens. But when he sticks his nose in that person is in, his toy comes out, so it’s like ah, so now I need to find that scent because that’s what pays me,” Heritage says.
The exercise teaches the four-legged rescuers to focus only on their noses because they’re able pick up on the scent of human breath.
“These dogs will not skip a beat,” Heritage said.
Almost all of the dogs in training are rescued from shelters. The trainers say their reward is seeing these dogs go from being rescued to rescuing others.
After about nine months of training, the dogs are paired with their handlers, usually firefighters.
For more information about the Search Dog Foundation, click here.