Mexican rescue dogs train for international disaster missions

Image courtesy of Bangkok Post

In the central Mexican state of Puebla, a rescue dog and its handler were seen abseiling down a ravine as part of an emergency response drill designed to prepare them for international crises, like the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey in February. Another member of the canine unit, a black Labrador retriever named July, successfully located a paramedic and an injured man in need of assistance, even allowing herself to be transported in an ambulance with a bandaged paw.

A total of 18 dogs participated in the training, which was organised by the Mexican Red Cross. Mexico, a country prone to earthquakes, boasts a wealth of experience in disaster relief and often sends its highly-skilled canine unit abroad for emergency missions. In her first international deployment, July managed to locate six bodies in the rubble after the February 6 earthquake in Turkey, which claimed over 50,000 lives.

Anneth Lopez, 35 years old, who has trained July since she was a puppy, commented on the canine’s work: “It alleviated the human suffering of people waiting to receive their relatives” who had passed away. Lopez expressed her close bond with July, saying, “We can’t be without each other.”

The drills are essential for developing communication skills, according to 36 years old veterinarian Alberto Pena. Pena emphasised: “The important thing about this type of exercise is that all the personnel with whom we are preparing every day speak the same language on the subject of rescue.”

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The danger involved in this line of work cannot be overstated. For example, a German shepherd named Proteo from the canine unit tragically lost his life while searching for survivors amidst the rubble in Turkey. Proteo was part of a group of more than a dozen rescue dogs sent by Mexico, alongside 130 military personnel, following the massive earthquake, reports Bangkok Post.

Another Mexican rescue dog, Frida, gained international recognition for her work in sniffing through earthquake debris while wearing protective goggles and booties. This Labrador retriever captured hearts when searching for survivors in a Mexico City school that had collapsed in the wake of a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in 2017, which claimed the lives of approximately 370 people.

Frida’s death in November, due to age-related complications, marked the end of a 10 year career during which she was credited with saving a dozen lives. Her passing resulted in an outpouring of heartfelt tributes.

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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