Ojai-based rescue dogs deployed
A different kind of highly trained athlete is working behind
the scenes to protect international competitors and visitors
at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Four canine disaster search teams affiliated with the National
Disaster Search Dog Foundation are integral members of a California
task force deployed to the Olympics by the Federal Emergency
"Our search dog and handler teams have rightfully earned
the confidence of safety officials worldwide. We are proud to
offer these certified two- and four-legged experts in support
of the Olympic Games," said Brian Humphreys, public information
officer for the Los Angeles City Fire Department and NDSDF board
The eyes of the world are on the Olympics, and nearly every nation
will be represented, with unprecedented focus on international
relations in light of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
"We're there to ensure that everyone will have a wonderful
time, " says Debra Tosch, handler and NDSDF program coordinator,
who is at the Olympics with her dog, Abby. Other NDSDF affiliated
teams on the task force are firefighter-paramedic Deresa Teller
with Bella (veterans of both Oklahoma City and the World Trade
Center searches), investment counselor Ron Weckbacher with Manny,
and firefighter Howard Orr with Duke. This highly experienced
task force team worked together at the World Trade Center following
the Sept. 11 attack.
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, based in Ojai, is
the leader in the field of canine disaster search training. The
NDSDF trained 13 of the FEMA certified canine search teams deployed
to the World Trade Center.
There is a tremendous shortage of FEMA-certified disaster search
dog-handler teams, according to Tosch, less than half the number
of needed teams is available for deployment within the United
The NDSDF routinely rescues dogs with disaster search potential
from animal shelters, gives them intensive professional training,
and pairs them with a firefighter handler.
The cost to train a dog and handler team to reach FEMA certification
"We are very proud that NDSDF dogs are providing a safety
net at the Olympics," says Wilma Melville, founder and executive
director. "With each deployment, handlers and dogs gain
experience that can be passed on to others in training."
Those who would like to further advance the work of NDSDF may
call (888) 646-1242, or visit the Web site at ndsdf.org.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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founder Wilma Melville, flanked by Murphy Black, left and Murphy's
daughter, Abby, who is in Salt Lake City for the Winter Olympics.