As animal lovers, we all know that rescue pets actually rescue us, but that phrase is never more apt than for former “unadoptable” shelter dogs who use their new lease on life to save lives.
Since its start in 1996, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation has trained dogs who many have given up on to never give up the search and rescue of those who have been struck by disaster. Based in Santa Paula, California, the non-profit organization rescues dogs in need from coast to coast whose dogged determination, temerity and boundless exuberance held them back during their days in the shelter system, but now serve as assets as they assist firefighters and other emergency responders in times of crisis.
In honor of the work of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, founder Wilma Melville was presented with the Helping Heroes Award at the annual Petco Foundation Lifesaving Awards gala. Melville, a retired schoolteacher, embarked on her mission to increase the number of canine search teams in the United States in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, where she took part in rescue and recovery efforts as a FEMA-Certified Canine Search Specialist.
The following video offers a look as dogs learn lifesaving skills at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation’s training center– the only one in the nation designed specifically for canine disaster search:
The Petco Foundation’s 2018 Awards Gala, which was co-hosted by Daymond John of ABC’s Shark Tank and Petco Foundation Board Chair Charlie Piscitello at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, California, also helped to shine a spotlight on:
- The Southern Pines Animal Shelter in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which received the Paul Jolly Compassion award.
- Shannon Wells of the Kansas City Pet Project, who was presented with the Unsung Hero Award.
- Front Street Animal Shelter, recipient of the Innovation Award.
- Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), which received the Lifesaving Impact Award.
- Dogs Playing for Life, which received the Love in Action Award.
- Steven Latham of the PBS series Shelter Me, who was presented with the Love Amplified Award.
Photos courtesy The Petco Foundation; Daymond John/Instagram